Death of Moses The remainder of chapter 32 contains God’s instructions to Moses regarding his death, and the reason why it would occur prior to entering the land because he had failed in the matter of striking the rock. In chapter 33, Moses blessed the children of Israel prior to his death, which is recorded in chapter 34. Deuteronomy 34:7 records that he lived to be 120 years old.
Epilogue for the Pentateuch With the death of Moses in 1406 B.C., we have completed the first five books of the Old Testament; the five books of which Moses was the author. In these books we covered the history of the world from creation through the flood, the tower of Babel, the selection of Abram, the births of Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, the 430 years of captivity in Egypt, the birth of Moses, the plagues on Egypt, the various murmurings and rebellions of the people of Israel prior to their entering the promised land in 1406 B.C. We have seen how as a result of their grumblings and disobedience, they had to wander an extra thirty-eight years in the wilderness so that no numbered man over the age of twenty would survive to go into the promised land.
After the death of Moses, the new generation of people was on
the east side of the Jordan River. The leader they knew for many years was dead, the baton of leadership had passed to Joshua, and the inhabitants of the land of Canaan were anticipating military activity as they looked eastward across the Jordan. They knew the Israelites had been successful in previous battles against the Midianites, and against the inhabitants of Heshbon and Edrei, so their hearts were beginning to melt. The Israelites, on the other hand, were becoming eager to enter the land for the military conquest under the leadership of Joshua.
XIII PREPARATION FOR CONQUEST
With this section, we are beginning a new era in the history of
Israel. The wilderness wanderings were behind them. Moses was dead and Joshua was responsible to lead them into the land of Canaan which God had earlier promised to Abraham’s descendants. It has been over seven hundred years since He told Abraham that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full (Gen. 15:16). The seven-century period of grace had only confirmed them in their iniquity. Although God is patient, He is also holy and just, and the time of judgment for the Canaanites had come.
Many people have a hard time reconciling the vengeance of God
on the Canaanites with the loving God of the New Testament. Earlier in this century, this doubt brought about a “two-god” theory the God of
the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. But, we have
discovered from the Ugarit tablets and other archaeological finds, that
these people were deserving of extermination because of the effect they would have on the children of Israel if they were spared. The New Testament tells us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are One. The God of the Old Testament gave the inhabitants of Canaan seven hundred years to see the error of their ways, but they waxed worse and worse, and now the time had come for destruction.
Charge to Joshua “Moses my servant is dead, “ God announced to Joshua in chapter one, verse 2. He then gave instructions to the new leader to take the people across the Jordan, assuring them at the same time of His presence with them. Verse 5 says:
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of
thy life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail
thee nor forsake thee.
The criteria for success are contained in verses 7 and 8:
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest
Observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant
commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left,
that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the
law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate
therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to
all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous,
and then thou shalt have good success.
Since they were on the east side of the Jordan River, preparing to
invade the Cis-Jordan, Joshua spoke to Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh reminding them of the previous agreement they had made regarding the use of their fighting forces to assist the
remaining nine and one-half tribes in conquering the land. He said in
verses 12-16: And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying. Remember the word which Moses
the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying. The Lord your
God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land. Your wives,
your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which
Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your
brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them: Until
the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you,
and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God
giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession,
and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on this side
Jordan toward the sunrising. And they answered Joshua, saying,
All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou
sendest us, we will go.
Then their final remark, in verse 17, would have made me very
nervous if I had been Joshua. They said: “According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee. “ This is disturbing in retrospect because we know that none of the tribes actually hearkened unto Moses. They continually grumbled, mumbled, and rebelled.
The Armed Forces Joshua had over 600,000 fighting men at his command ready to enter the land of Canaan and perform a military assault in order to occupy the territory. Numbers 26:51, where the new census was recorded, put the actual count of the numbered men at 601,730.
Accusations are made by critics regarding the use of round
numbers in Scripture. I believe Moses knew the exact number, but even biblical authors usually use round numbers for convenience sake. I call your attention to Numbers 11:21, where Moses says, “The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen. Now we know from Numbers 2:32, also authored by Moses, that the numbered men at that time totaled 603,550. Numbers 11:21 is an example of using round numbers for convenience.
We can put to rest the argument that Scripture is inaccurate when it
refers to numbers. Round numbers are often used for convenience, but when necessary Scripture is very plain and specific with exact numbers.
Ancient Warfare As Joshua and his fighting men looked into the Cis-Jordan area, they saw a land which was under the loose hegemony of Egypt. Amenhotep III, and his royal son Amenhotep IV, were in charge of the land militarily. The land consisted of an array of city-states. We read (Josh. 12:24) that Joshua defeated thirty-one kings in all. Just as today we have mayors over cities and governors over states, the heads of the individual city-states were called kings. Although they were loosely allied to Egypt, they were generally independent of one another. Archaeologists have discovered that the typical city-state had a wall about 50 feet high and 50 feet wide.
Siege warfare The standard method of warfare in the fifteenth century
B.C., and even into the Middle Ages 2500 years later, was known as siege warfare. An invading army had the task of breaking down the walls or battering down the gates of the city under siege. The
inhabitants of the city had the task of maintaining themselves inside the city without starving to death, dying of thirst, or allowing their walls to be breached. It was usually a long stand-off. Sieges could often last two or three years.
The invading forces would strip the land of all crops and food.
They would pollute the area because of their numbers. Hopefully, the
inhabitants on the inside had enough grain stored up, and access to
water to provide for the citizens locked up within. When the besieged city was able to hold out long enough, the invading army would be forced to retire to its own land. When the people inside ran out of supplies, they sometimes resorted to cannibalism.
This very thing will happen later in the Old Testament to the Israelites. God had promised that if they forsook Him, they would eat their children, and that is exactly what happened. When things reached that point, the city eventually had to give up and allow the invading forces in. However, if the invaders could speed the operation by breaching the wall, the stand-off came to an end much more quickly.
Defense tactics Those inside a city would do everything possible to prevent their walls from being breached. They would pile dirt at a
45 degree angle halfway up the wall. This dirt slope was called a glacis, and was covered with lime. It prevented the invading forces from attacking the wall directly with their battering rams or siege towers. The inhabitants lined the tops of the walls with huge stones which could be rolled down upon the enemy as they attempted to climb the glacis and raise siege ladders. The inhabitants would also stand on the wall and shoot arrows and pour hot oil down on the attackers.
Offense tactics The invading forces had unique engines of war. Among them was the battering ram which could be carried by a
man and jammed against a wall or gate. In many cases they had the
battering ram suspended by ropes so they could swing it like a pendulum to get more momentum on the ram.
They also had a device called the turtle. Twenty or thirty men
would carry a huge shield, which looked like a turtle, over them. With
this protection, they would attempt to tunnel under the wall to come up on the inside and take the city from within. They built siege towers, fifty to sixty feet high, on rollers so they could roll them up against the wall. Of course, where there was a glacis, this was not possible.
Joshua’s Dilemma The Israelites did not have any of these engines of war. It was not until the time of Uzziah that they began to develop such sophisticated weapons. The task that Joshua faced was, from a human standpoint, overwhelming. He had over 600,000 men, but no engines of war and no strategy. In addition, he was confronted with numerous, heavily fortified city-states. If he required a two to three-year siege to conquer each one, he could spend fifty to one hundred years just laying siege to cities and conquering them before the land could be occupied. But now, the glory and might of God became evident. This was His holy war and it was His occupation army moving into the land.
God had several strategies for victory. First of all, since He had promised Joshua a victory, He would begin by showing the children of Israel that it was His battle. Instead of laying a long siege against Jericho, God demonstrated His power by causing the walls to fall flat.
Next, He would cause a spirit of foolishness to go into the hearts
of the people of Canaan so that, rather than staying inside the city, they would venture out and fight Joshua on the plains. There he was quickly successful. The Lord would send swarms of hornets to drive the inhabitants from their cities out onto the plains.
Finally, He would cause the kings to form confederacies so they would leave their cities to make united attacks against Joshua, enabling him to defeat several at one time. With divine intervention, the entire process of conquest was speeded up.
The View from Canaan The spade of the archaeologist has provided supplemental information about this period. In A.D. 1887, a peasant woman was digging in the fertile soft around Amarna, Egypt, near Cairo. She unearthed almost four hundred small cuneiform tablets measuring from three inches wide to as long as nine inches, and inscribed on both sides. This was the method used in the late fifteenth century B.C. to send diplomatic correspondence back and forth from Canaan to Egypt. Thanks to the archaeologists, we know that these tablets date from about 1400 B.C. to circa 1358 B.C., and were sent to Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV.
These dates encompass the time of Joshua’s invasion and they mention the “ Habiru,” generally agreed to be the Hebrews. Two of the tablets state:
Let my lord the king, the sun in heaven, take heed unto his land,
for the Habiru are mighty against us. And let the king my lord
stretch out his hand unto me and let him deliver me from their
hands so that they may not make an end of us.
To the king my Lord say: Thus says Abdu-Heba thy servant; at the
feet of the king my lord seven times and seven times I prostrate
myself. The whole land of the king has revolted. There is not one
governor who is loyal to the king. All have rebelled. May the king
hearken unto Abdu-Heba and send the troops, for if no troops come
this year the whole territory of my lord the king will be lost. The
Habiru are capturing the fortresses of the king. May the king care
for his land. The Habiru are taking the cities of the king. If there
are no archers this year, then let the king send a deputy that he
may take me to himself together with my brothers, and we die with
the king our lord.
From the hand of an eyewitness, we possibly have the story of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan from the viewpoint of the enemy.
XIV THE INVASION OF JERICHO
JOSHUA-Rahab Joshua sent two spies to view the land, especially Jericho, and they went to the house of a harlot named Rahab. If they wanted information, they could not have gone to a better place. The house of a harlot was a place where the merchants, military men, and the politicians spent time.
To get inside information about a city, one could be exposed to a full
complement and wide range of individuals. But, the presence of the
outsiders soon became known to the inhabitants of Jericho and threats were made against them. In fear for their lives, they made an arrangement with Rahab so that if she would hide them, and tell the officials that they had fled, then her life and the lives of her family would be spared when the city was invaded. In order for her dwelling to be identified when the invasion began, she was instructed to hang a crimson cord from her window. (2:18)
Rahab was an interesting woman. In verse 9 she used the sacred
Hebrew word Yahweh for “Lord”. She also identified herself, not as an idolater, but as one who actually believed in the Lord of the Hebrews. In verse 10 she described why the Canaanites were in fear of Israel. Rahab said:
We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for
you, when ye came out of Egypt, and what ye did unto the two
kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon
and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.
The inhabitants of Canaan were well versed in what the God of
the Israelites had done; but think about what event she mentioned. The Red Sea had been dried up forty years earlier, yet Rahab knew about it. The Canaanites had also been tracking the history of the Israelites since the Red Sea had been crossed She admitted in verse 11, “Our hearts melted because of you”.
As the Canaanites looked across the river into the Trans-Jordan,
they saw a large body of people. They knew that their God had dried
the Red Sea up before them; they knew they had been victorious over the kings of the Trans-Jordan area; and now they stood in fear of their lives anticipating the inevitable invasion.
However, Rahab was ready to help the spies in return for having
her family saved because she acknowledged the God of the Israelites. When the spies told her she must tie the scarlet cord in her window, she did not wait, though she must have known she had a few days. Verse 21 says that immediately after they left, “she bound the scarlet line in the window.“
Rahab was not a procrastinator. She made her decision quickly and did not delay in doing what she knew would save her family.
Crossing the Jordan The previous generation of Israelites had experienced the physical power of God in His universe by witnessing the parting of the Red Sea. However, it was necessary that this new generation witness the power of God’s hand in the physical universe, to give them assurance, as they entered the land of Canaan and faced the seemingly impossible odds. Chapter 3 records the new miracle which was no less magnificent than the parting of the Red Sea.
Reasons for the miracle At that time of year, the Jordan overflowed its banks. The snows on Mount Hermon were melting and at various locations, the Jordan would be as wide as one mile. It was possibly about a mile wide opposite Jericho. At that season, the inhabitants of Jericho and Canaan could feel secure even though an invading army was encamped across the river. The river current was swift and there was no way to make rafts large enough to take across enough fighting men to lay siege to a city. However, God was going to cause the Jordan River to “stand up in a heap” and the river bed to dry up. There are four reasons for this. First, to facilitate immediate entrance into the land; and second, in order that the new generation might witness His power as the same God who brought their fathers out of Egypt.
Third, Joshua’s position was confirmed. He predicted the event
and it came to pass. He was obviously God’s divine replacement for
Fourth, not only did it provide a method for crossing to facilitate
military occupation; not only did it demonstrate God’s power to a new
generation; and not only did it validate Joshua’s position as leader, but it also caused the inhabitants of Canaan to be devastated psychologically.
Imagine what it must have been like living in Canaan, feeling
secure during the harvest season because the Jordan had overflowed its banks effectively barring the way of the invaders, then suddenly looking eastward and seeing the Jordan River dry up, knowing that forty years before it had happened at the Red Sea, and seeing the great horde of Israelites crossing the Jordan River into your territory. It must have been absolutely devastating psychologically. Since, as Rahab said, the hearts of the inhabitants melted when they heard about the Red Sea, they must have melted when they saw the Jordan River dry up.
Critics have offered many types of explanations for the drying up
of the Jordan. The most prominent is the landslide theory. Some suggest that a landslide took place upstream somewhere and that Joshua took advantage of it to cross his army on a dry river bed. However, Joshua 3:13 is prophetic. Although Joshua could not have known in advance that a landslide would take place, he said, “The waters of Jordan shall be cut off. “ It had not happened yet, and it would not happen until the feet of the priests carrying the Ark stood in the water of the river.
The Israelites had all their religious objects with them. They had
the tabernacle which represented the capitol of God (where the tabernacle moved, was God’s capitol for His Theocratic state). They had the Ark, which was representative of God’s throne (where the Ark of God was, there was His throne). The priests were carrying the Ark, and they were the ones who made intercession so that God could dwell among an unholy people. Also, Scripture is very plain when it records (vs. 15), “Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest.” Verse 17 says that when the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant into the river, the Jordan dried up, and Israel crossed on dry ground. The new generation witnessed the power of God over nature.
Memorial We examined how generations which followed great events would never believe the stories they heard from their forefathers regarding the reality of the event. God knew it would happen again. He knew that three or four generations later, their descendants would hear how God dried the Jordan River and would laugh and say “it’s impossible ... .. it’s a myth,” “it never happened. “ To prevent this, Joshua instructed men to pick up one large stone for each tribe and then stack the stones in two heaps. Verse 4:2 and following describes the piling of the stones and how, when the priests came up out of the dry riverbed, the water rushed down and covered one huge mound of stones (vs. 9).
When later generations looked out into the middle of the river
and saw the heap of stones under the water, they would ask, “What
mean ye by these stones?” (vs. 6). The old men would explain how they
had placed the stones there when the riverbed was dry; when God
caused the waters to stand up in a heap and their ancestors crossed on dry ground and conquered the land. This would be proof that the great miracle actually occurred in the historical past. The heap of smooth stones piled at Gilgal was additional proof of the miracle (vs. 20).
Chapter 5:1 confirms that the hearts of the inhabitants of the land
melted. “Neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel, when they saw how the God of the Israelites had dried up the Jordan. The children of Israel camped at Gilgal where they kept the Passover. When they arrived at Gilgal in the Cis-Jordan area, the manna ceased and they began to eat the produce of the land as recorded in verse 12.
Preparation for Victory When Joshua stood by Jericho, he looked up, and verse 5:13 records that he saw a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua asked, “Are you for us or against us? “ The
reply came, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.“
When he heard that, Joshua fell on his face. This was Christ in the Old Testament Theophany. This word is used when God is manifested in the Old Testament by an appearance of Christ. Christ appeared in this instance as the Captain of the host of the Lord. Joshua recognized that he was being addressed by deity, so he fell to the ground. Joshua was then given the same kind of experience that his predecessor Moses had forty years earlier at the burning bush. The inspiration of that event which Moses experienced, when he encountered God and was instructed to remove his sandals from His feet because he was on holy ground, was now given to Joshua. Joshua would never forget this experience of meeting God face to face. The response to Joshua’s question about whose side
the Man was on, actually meant, “I am on my own side.” The important issue to Joshua was, Whose side are you on? We still use the terminology that God is on our side. I submit to you that God is on His own side and the issue is, are you on His side?
Joshua was now a man totally dedicated and prepared for his
task. He had witnessed the power of God in drying the Red Sea and the Jordan River. He knew that God had not changed in those forty years. He had the assurance from God that he would be successful and that his way would be prosperous. He was prepared spiritually after having the encounter with the visible manifestation of God and being told to remove the sandals from his feet.