Israel’s preparation The children of Israel were also ready for their task. Their spirits were high; their adrenaline was pumping; and they
were eager to go up from Gilgal and tear down the walls of
Jericho brick by brick. But, this was God’s holy war and He was going to demonstrate to them that He did not need them to conquer the land. So, rather than ask them to perform military, He said, in effect, “I do not want you to do anything. I am going to demonstrate to you that even though you are confronted with an impossible task, humanly speaking, the victory is Mine.”
Jericho was a representative city. It had been around for many
centuries and was still there. It was the citadel, the bastion of strength
for the River. This was to be a symbolic victory so the Israelites were
restrained from any military activity whatsoever.
Whose the spoil? Prior to the invasion of Jericho, God gave specific commands regarding the “spoil” inside the city. The old cliché, “To the
victor belongs“ is not only true in military circles, but it is
true with God as well. It was as if God said, “This is My battle; this is My military victory. I do not need you to help Me defeat Jericho; therefore all of the spoil is Mine.” Reading in Joshua 6:17-19:
And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to
the Lord: ... And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed
thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed
thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.
But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are
consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the
The word “accursed” means sanctified, or as in some translations, “under the ban.” It does not mean accursed in the sense that we think of something being a curse, but it means that something is sanctified, it is set apart, it belongs to God. It is His. Do not touch it. The spoil belongs to God since He is the sole victor in the battle against Jericho.
The Conquest In Joshua 6:13, the Israelites were instructed to march around the city once a day for six days, and on the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. They were also instructed to be totally silent. In verse 10, we are informed that:
Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout nor
make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out
of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
I suspect that Joshua had his hands full simply convincing these people to stay quiet. Their blood was boiling, they itched for military encounter and activity, but they had to humble themselves in marching around the city in total silence. I also am sure that after the third or fourth day, they began to receive some jeers and taunts from the top of the wall of Jericho. Nevertheless, the seventh day came, and after the seventh time around the city they were told to shout. When they shouted, rather than having a two to three year siege, the walls of Jericho fell flat! This was a symbolic victory demonstrating that, regardless of the fortifications put up by the inhabitants of Canaan, God could overcome all obstacles in a moment.
The Israelites ran into the city and began to follow God’s
instructions. Yet, even in the midst of all the turmoil, confusion, and the noise of battle, verse 22 records that Joshua instructed his two spies to go to Rahab’s house. Despite the chaos, they kept their promise to save her and her household. At the close of chapter 6, everything was outwardly on a very high level. Victory had been experienced; God’s promise had been confirmed; and the people of Israel were ready to conquer the entire land. However, chapter 7 opens with a disheartening revelation. Achan had acted unfaithfully in regard to the things placed under the ban, by taking some of the spoil.
XV PRIDE AND HUMILIATION
JOSHUA After the overwhelming victory at Jericho, “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai. “ One senses that the confidence of the people was
beginning to shift from God to themselves, because they said to Joshua: Let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand
men go up and smite Ai, and make not all the people to labour
thither, for they are but few. (7:3)
In other words, “we do not need God for this little job, neither do we
need all the fighting men of Israel.” Their over-confident attitude is
immediately apparent. Not only were they becoming overly confident
in their own capability after the victory at Jericho, in which they really
had no part, but they failed to consult God regarding the next battle. In addition, without their knowing it, they were at that time under the
curse of God as if they were the Canaanites.
Defeat at Ai In verse 4 we read that about three thousand men went up. But, without warning, the men of Ai struck down thirty-six of the men of Israel so that they fled from the city and were pursued by the men of Ai. With that defeat, the hearts of the Israelites melted as the hearts of the Canaanites had before. Because of the unexpected defeat, they lost their psychological advantage and were devastated. They were totally confused. Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth; but God said to him (vs. 10): “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?”
Sin revealed It was not time to pray, it was time to act. He explained further:
Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant
which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed
thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put
it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could
not stand before their enemies.
The earlier assurance that not a man would be lost in battle, had
now been negated. “You have already seen thirty-six of your men die,” God in effect was saying, “It is time to rise up, take these people, consecrate them, and find the individual who has sinned and brought Israel under the curse.”
This would not be an easy task. There were over 600,000 numbered
men and almost two million people. Even Sherlock Holmes and
Scotland Yard would have difficulty finding the guilty party among those two million. Simply to discover who the guilty individual was would be a miracle. How was it to be done? Joshua 7:14 gives God’s instructions. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your
tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall
come according to the families thereof, and the family which the
Lord shall take shall come by households; and the household which
the Lord shall take shall come man by man.
The Lord was going to take these groups until He had filtered down to
the guilty person. But again, what procedure would He use?
After the death of Moses, with whom God spoke face to
face, God revealed His will through the ephod and the
breastplate of righteousness. The historical record of the construction
of the ephod and the breastplate of righteousness is
contained in Exodus 28:6-30.
Evidently, through the stones that were on the breastplate and with the “utim “ and “thummim, God revealed His will to the priest, or to the holder of the ephod who was in His will. We know that four hundred years later, in the time of David, as recorded in I Samuel 30:7-8, God responded to David through the ephod. We read:
And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray
thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the
ephod to David. And David inquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I
pursue after this troop? Shall I overtake them? And he answered
him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail
Evidently, this was the method which God prescribed. This is surmised because Moses instructed Joshua that he was to inquire through Eleazer the priest regarding the will of God in every matter.
Achan Joshua stepped forward and announced that someone in
the camp had sinned and had brought the entire camp under the judgment of God. Achan, the guilty man, standing with 1,999,999 other people around him, felt very secure. But, after going in and inquiring of God through the ephod, Joshua came back out and said, “The tribe of Judah is taken. “ The census of Numbers 26:22 indicated that there were 76,500 numbered men in Judah, so even that seemed a secure crowd in which to hide. To Achan, one in 76,500 was still good odds against discovery.
As the other eleven tribes backed away, Joshua inquired again and
announced, that the family of the Zarhites was taken. As the other families moved back, Achan must have started getting stomach twinges and sweaty palms. Then Joshua announced that the household of Zabdi was taken. As the household of Zabdi passed by man by man, Joshua confronted Achan and asked, “Where did you put the stuff? Achan’s confession (vs 21) was a tragic one. He said, “I saw ... I coveted them, and took them.“ How my heart goes out to this man who fell and brought disgrace and shame on the tribes of Israel. I am reminded of I John 2:16, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. “ And James 1:15: “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringth forth death. “ Achan is a tragic example of these verses of warning.
Joshua pronounced judgment (vs. 25): “Why has thou troubled us?
The Lord shall trouble thee this day. “ Even the name Achan means trouble. They stoned him with stones and burned everything that he owned. Then they piled a huge heap of stones over the place where he died, then named the place “the Valley of Achor, “ which means Valley of Troubling. What an epitaph to have on one’s tombstone ”The Troubler of Israel!”
Cleansing brings victory Following the removal of Achan and his sin from the midst of the camp, the Israelites were told to return once again to Ai, this time with God’s assurance that they would defeat
the inhabitants of the city. But this time God had a different
plan. The battle was going to be theirs and the spoil was going to be
theirs because they would partake in the military activity. If Achan had
waited until they went up to Ai under God’s direction, the thirty-six
men would not have been lost, he would not have been executed and
he would have enjoyed the spoil of the very next battle because he would have gotten it with honor, in a God-approved manner with proper priorities. He and his family could have enjoyed it with the blessing of God.
In chapter 8, Joshua went up against Ai once again, using good
military strategy. The inhabitants of Ai, thinking they were going to defeat the Israelites as before, left their city. Joshua went in from the other side, burned Ai and defeated the army, taking all the city and twelve thousand men and women. The psychological advantage was regained!
Deceit of Gibeon As you recall, Joshua was given a military manual which told him that he was to completely annihilate the people who occupied the land which he was to subdue. In addition, he could proclaim peace to those cities which were afar off, outside the general area in the land of occupation. Joshua chapter 9 demonstrates that, following their initial self-confidence when they first attacked Ai in the energy of the flesh without consulting God, their self-reliance had become more ingrained.
We are introduced in this chapter to the inhabitants of Gibeon. If
you examine a map you will see that they were located not very far
away from the camp of the Israelites. By no means could they be considered a city afar off. They were inhabitants of a city destined for total annihilation because they were in the area of immediate
Reading about the craftiness of the Gibeonites, leads us to believe
that somehow they were aware of Joshua’s military manual. Joshua
9:3ff says that when they heard what Israel did at Jericho and Ai, they
acted craftily. This is the same word used in Genesis 3:1 to describe the activity of the serpent.
Having heard about Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites feared for their
lives. They somehow knew that as soon as Joshua came across the mountains with his military force, they would be annihilated. As a result, they set about to deceive Joshua and his army into making a treaty with them. They believed that the only way they could do so was to make Joshua think they lived in one of the cities afar off. With this plan of deception, they put on worn out clothes and sandals. They took bread that had been around for weeks and had become dry, crumbly, and moldy. They put worn out sacks on their donkeys, took cracked and worn out wineskins, threw dirt on themselves, and no doubt gave the appearance of having traveled for weeks or even months.
As they came panting and dirty into the camp of Joshua they said
(vs. 6): “We be come from afar country: now therefore make ye a league with us.“ Joshua was slightly suspicious, but they added (vss. 8-10):
We are thy servants... Thy servants are come because of the name
of the Lord thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that
he did in Egypt. And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites,
that were beyond Jordan. To Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og
king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth.
Joshua, although suspicious, looked at the wineskins, the moldy
bread, and worn out clothes and sandals. He and his leaders took counsel and decided on the basis of what they saw that the ragged strangers were right. They would make a treaty with them. But, verse 14 says, they “asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.
This is the first indication of direct disobedience on the part of
Joshua from the direct command given in Numbers 27:21. Joshua made peace with the Gibeonites, entered into a covenant with them to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them. Immediately following this, Joshua set out to continue his central campaign to conquer the middle section of Canaan. It was then they discovered Gibeon was included among the cities of the central plain. Realizing what they had done in making a treaty with people they were supposed to destroy, verse 18 says:
And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of
the congregation had sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel.
And all the congregation murmured against the princes.
Joshua and the leaders explained that if they touched the
Gibeonites, God’s wrath would come down upon them because they
had made a covenant in the name of the Lord. But, Joshua told the
Gibeonites, “even though you deceived us and we cannot kill you, we
will make you hewers of wood and drawers of water for the entire
congregation.” The Gibeonites readily agreed, evidently finding slavery preferable to death. In verse 24 they gave an interesting testimony as to why they had decided to practice deceit.
XVI CONQUEST COMPLETED
JOSHUA When other Canaanite cities learned that the Gibeonites had become cowards and made a treaty with the occupation forces of
Israel, they banded their emissaries together to destroy them. As a result (10:6), the Gibeonites sent emissaries to Joshua begging him not to abandon his “new servants” but “come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.
Because of the covenant between them, Israel was bound to go to
the rescue of Gibeon, but Joshua was able to lead them into battle with the Lord’s gracious assurance ringing in his ears (10:8): “Fear them not. For I have delivered them into thine hand, there shall not a man of them stand before thee.
What a tremendous promise for a military leader to receive from the
Creator of the universe! A general who received assurance like that from a sovereign God, could put his cares and fears regarding his military conquests to rest. However, some military leaders would
relax and slow down, knowing that the victory was certain.
It was not so with Joshua. We read in chapter 10, verse 9 that he
came upon the enemy quickly by marching throughout the night. Do
you find that amazing? I do. I see here the interfacing of the spiritual
promise and the physical activity. Joshua did not go ahead without an
assurance from God. At the same time, he did not sit back and wait for God to fight the battle for him. He marched with his men through the night to come upon the enemy suddenly to attack and defeat them. This was the perfect blending of physical activity and spiritual promise.
God Fights for Israel Joshua marched all night and engaged the enemy. In the midst of the battle, God began to drop huge hailstones on the Amorites so that, as verse 11 says “they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
Still, the conflict was too great to complete in a single day, so
Joshua offered up an amazing prayer (10:12ff):
Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered
up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the
sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon,
in the valley of Aijalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon
stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.
Skeptics say: “Don’t you know that if the earth stood still people
would be crushed because of the gravitational pull? It is only the
spinning of the earth and the centrifugal force that keeps us from being crushed. Can you imagine the chaos in the universe if things should grind to a halt?” They suggest “better” explanations. For example, “possibly there was an extended period of light refraction so that the day seemed longer.” Or, “possibly God gave them some kind of speeded up activity so they got twice as much done in the same amount of time like some of the old movies that seemed to run very rapidly” “ Maybe it is just poetic; it didn’t really happen. Remember the poem of Deborah in Judges 5, how she seemed to indicate that the planets and stars fought against Sisera?”
It all depends on how big you believe God is. The God who spoke
the heavens into existence can as easily grind them to a halt at a moment’s notice and then reactivate them again. We know this is what happened because not only is Scripture correct, inspired and inerrant, but verse 14 records, “And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel. “ This was not poetic and there is no scientific explanation for it. Everything stood still. God continued to demonstrate that this was His war, His holy war, and He was in command.
Following the defeat of the central confederacy, chapter 10 lists
the kings and the various locations which comprised the southern confederacy and describes how Joshua was victorious over the entire south.
It was “because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (vs. 42). Verse 43 says that the army returned to its base of operations at Gilgal.
Chapter 11 describes the northern campaign and the move by
Joshua and the army up into that area. In summary, verse 23 says, “Joshua took the whole land. Chapter 12 is a synopsis of all the victories won by Israel and terminates in verse 24 with the information that thirty-one kings were defeated by Joshua and His armies.
Distribution of the Land Chapter 13 opens with the indication that Joshua has become too old to continue. Before his death, the land must be distributed among the remaining nine and one-half tribes. The other two and one-half tribes had already selected their land in the Trans-Jordan area.
Chapter 13, verses 14 and 33, had reaffirmed the fact that the tribe of
Levi would not receive a physical inheritance in the land because the
Lord, the God of Israel, was their inheritance. Verses 21 through 33 are a flashback to the events in the Trans-Jordan and the time of Moses. Chapter 14 begins relating events which occurred six or seven years after the entry into the land. We know this from verse 7 where Caleb said, “Forty years old was I when Moses ... sent me ... to spy out the land, “ and verse 10 where he said, “the Lord hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years.... I am this day four score and five years old. “ (Remember the time period from Kadesh to the crossing of Jordan was thirty-eight years.) So, the approximate date of this chapter is 1400 B.C. Caleb at age eighty-five is still claiming mountains and wanting to fight giants.
Chapters 15 through 22 detail the allotment of the land by various
geographical areas among the nine and one-half tribes. The fighting men from Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh are mustered out to return to the Trans-Jordan under some conflict and misunderstanding about their convictions and intentions.
A Warning Chapter 23 takes place “a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about. “ Joshua by now was very old and had some serious warnings to relay concerning their associations with the inhabitants of Canaan. In verse 7, he commands that they were to have nothing to do with the Canaanite gods, not even so much as mentioning their names. If they were to mingle themselves with those nations, then verse 13 warns:
Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out
any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and
traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your
eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your
God hath given you.
Joshua’s Farewell Chapter 24 presents Joshua gathering the people around him at Shechem for his final farewell. This was a revered site because it was the place where God first appeared to Abram when he entered Canaan (Gen. 12:6) and where he built his first altar in Canaan. We know that the people recognized the sacredness of the place, because Joshua 24:32 tells us that they took the bones of Joseph which they had carried up out of Egypt and buried them there at Shechem.
As Joshua gathered the people around him, he reminded them
(vs. 12) how God had sent the hornet before the invading forces and
driven out the inhabitants of the cities. He pointed out how God had
given them a land they had not labored for; how they inhabited cities
they had not built; how they were eating from vineyards and olive yards they had not planted. Verse 14 warns them to fear and serve the Lord alone “and put away the gods which your fathers served.”
Imagine! He repeated it again in verse 23: “Now therefore put away,
said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel. “ Even after witnessing the power of God, as He dried up the Jordan River, after witnessing His power as He drove out the inhabitants of the cities, the Israelites were still carrying idols and foreign gods with them. Verse 15 said, “Make up your minds!”
Choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which
your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the
gods of the Amotites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and
my house, we will serve the Lord.
“Flood,” is actually river and refers to the Euphrates. They had three
options. They might choose to serve the ancient gods of the children as their forefathers had; or the gods of the Amorites; or they could stand with Joshua and choose to serve Jehovah. All the people responded (vs. 16): “God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.
The book closes with the information (vs. 29) that Joshua died at
the age of 110 years. And, according to verse 31:
Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the
elders that over lived Joshua, and which had known all the work of
the Lord, that he had done for Israel.
Unfortunately, we will learn in Judges 2:10, that after this older generation had passed away, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. “This is graphic proof regarding how succeeding generations look back in mockery, disrespect, and disbelief on the things that God has done for their fathers before them.