Monday, July 26, 2010

Joshua 15

The land given to Judah (vs. 1-12)--This chapter deals entirely with the territory of Judah, which will become exceedingly important as the centuries go by. Again, I would encourage the reader to get a good Bible map and look at it; it's almost essential, in understanding the subsequent history of the Israelites, to have at least some idea where the various tribes settled. Judah's southern border was the southern extremity of Israel (v. 1). It bordered on Edom and the Wilderness of Zin (v. 1). It began at the southern tip of the Salt (Dead) Sea (v. 2), and westward went all the way to the "Brook of Egypt" (v. 4). This is not the Nile, but a nameless little stream east of that river that apparently was the dividing line between Egypt and Canaan. The eastern border of Judah ran up the Dead Sea to the mouth of the Jordan River, and then the boundary extended all the way westward to the Great (Mediterranean Sea). The rest of the place names don't mean a lot to us and would require a rather detailed map to identify. But still, the basic boundary of Judah can be established from the text.

Caleb's promise (vs. 13-19)--Caleb took possession the land Joshua gave to him (see Joshua 14). As he said he would attempt to do, he drove out some of the Anakim of that region (v. 14). He took some more land, then perhaps ran into a snag at a town called Kirjath Sepher. So in verse 16, he said, "He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife." Othniel, who was Caleb's nephew and destined to become the first of the judges, won the prize (v. 17). There was one more thing Achsah, Caleb's daughter, wanted: "Since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water." So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs" (v. 19). Her request was not unreasonable. It was a dry, arid land, unsuitable for agriculture without water. So it was natural that Othniel and Achsah would want some water on their land.

The cities of Judah (vs. 20-63)--The rest of the chapter is virtually nothing more than a listing of the cities Judah conquered. Verses 21-32 catalog the cities in the south; verses 33-47, those in the "lowlands" (this will include some major Philistine cities); verses 48-60 record the towns in the mountain country, and verses 61 and 62 a few in the wilderness. The chapter closes by noting that the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, could not be driven out. That will have to wait almost 400 years until David finally does it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Joshua 14

Introduction to the division of the land (vs. 1-5)--The first verse "These are the areas which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan..." actually introduces the next several chapters. For the most part, it will be a rather dry, but important, listing of the boundaries of the territory of each of the tribes. There's an occasional interlude in the listing, as in the rest of this chapter. The writer once again mentions that two-and-a-half tribes received their inheritance east of the Jordan, and the Levites received no land (except for 48 cities they were given, scattered in various locales around the land).

Caleb asks for the land promised to him (vs. 6-15)--Caleb was one of the two men (Joshua being the other) of the 12 spies who gave a positive report after Moses sent them in to reconnoiter the land (read the story in Numbers 13). It almost cost the two men their lives (Numbers 14:10). Because he had "wholly followed the Lord my God" (v. 8), Moses had promised Caleb a special inheritance once the land was occupied. In these verses, he comes to Joshua to request (demand?) that a certain parcel of land be given to him (v. 12). Joshua thus granted him Hebron, a major city, and the land around it (that's implied in the giving of Hebron) to Caleb.

There are a couple of interesting historical notes in this section. In verse 15, the writer tells us that "the name of Hebron formerly was Kirjath Arba (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim)." Caleb informs us (v. 12) that some of the Anakim were still there, and that if "the Lord will be with me...I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said." The Anakim are an interesting people. They were the descendants of a man named Anak (Num. 13:33). They dwelt in the south of Palestine (hence, Hebron), but also, during the days of Abraham (some 500 years before), they lived south of that region in territories that eventually were known as Edom and Moab (the latter being east of the Jordan River). Some have suggested that they may have come from the same race as the Phoenicians and Egyptians, and they also have been identified with the Nephilim, "giants," of Genesis 6:4. This is purely speculation, however. This idea is derived from Numbers 13:33, which reads "There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight" (this is the report given by the 10 unfaithful spies). More than likely, these 10 men were simply cowards, looking for an excuse not to attack. The Anakim almost surely weren't "giants," though they do appear to have been formidable and very warlike.

The other interesting point is that Caleb recounts a bit of his biography in verses 10 and 11. He was 40 years old when Moses sent him (and the other 11) into Canaan as spies, but as he was speaking to Joshua, he was 85. Well, since the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, Caleb would have been 80 when they first entered the land. So we learn here that they had been at war for five years. They had conquered quite a bit of land, but not nearly all of it yet.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Joshua 13

The land left to be conquered (vs. 1-7)--The Lord had told Israel in Deuteronomy 7:22, "And the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you little by little; you will be unable to destroy them at once, lest the beasts of the field become too numerous for you." And so by the time of Joshua's death, there remained quite a bit of territory to be subjugated and occupied. That land is defined in the first seven verses of Joshua 13. Yet, since the Lord did intend to "drive out them from before the children of Israel" (v. 6), He commanded Joshua to go ahead and "divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance" (v. 6). So each tribe would know the extension of their territory and then move in and conquer it. But the Lord would be with them, if they remained faithful to Him. Which they did not.

The land given to Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh (vs. 8-14)--It has already been noted several times through the course of the first few books of the Bible that these three tribes received their land on the eastern side of the Jordan. Just for the record's sake, their land is once again noted in this section. Verse 14 mentions that the tribe of Levi would get no land inheritance, because "the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as He said to them." Levi had the greatest privilege of all--to officiate at the worship of the Lord. Jehovah wanted them to concentrate on that, and not be distracted by any kind of agrarian or commercial pursuits.

The territory of Reuben (vs. 15-23)--The previous section was general; now the writer gets specific and explains exactly the boundaries of Reuben's territory. There were many cities and kingdoms that fell into the Reubenites hands. Some of them are listed here. It would be a good idea for the reader to look at a map just to get a general idea of where the various land allotments lay.

Gad's allotment (vs. 24-28)--Now the land given to the tribe of Gad is noted.

The territory of half the tribe of Manasseh (vs. 29-33)--And the chapter ends by describing the territory given to half the tribe of Manasseh. The other half of the tribe would receive its territory west of the Jordan River, of course. Verse 33 concludes the chapter by basically repeating verse 14 about the Levites.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Joshua 12

Conquests east of the Jordan River (vs. 1-6)--The writer now draws the boundaries of the land that the Israelites conquered, or were to conquer. They had already obtained all the land they were going to have east of the Jordon by their defeat of the Amorties and Bashanites (the story is related in Numbers 21). The exact extent of that land is related in these verses. The reader is encouraged to check a Bible map to see exactly where the boundaries were. This territory was given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh (v. 6).

The kings conquered west of the Jordan (vs. 1-24)--The rest of the chapter largely consists of a listing of the names of the kings, and their cities, that Joshua conquered. These were all west of the Jordan River. Remember that the city-state was the primary form of government in ancient times, thus all of these cities had their own king. There were 31 of these monarchs conquered (v. 24). Interestingly, verse 10 mentions that "the king of Jerusalem" was defeated, but this was a Jebusite city that the children of Israel were unable to take until the time of David (II Sam. 5). He will make it the seat of his government, moving from Hebron. The name of their king was Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1). The Jebusites were descendants of Noah's son Ham, through Ham's son Canaan. These people appear only once more in the person of "Araunah the Jebusite" (II Sam. 24:18), who sold his threshing floor to David on Mount Moriah as a site for an altar to Jehovah.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Joshua 11

The Northern Alliance (vs. 1-5)--Joshua's successful southern campaign roused the concern of the kings of various city-states in the north. Most of these cities were up around the Sea of Galilee, Hazor being north of it. But the king of that city was able to raise armies, "as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots" (v. 4). Where the "waters of Merom" (v. 5) is uncertain, but that is where they waited for Joshua.

The battle won (vs. 6-9)--But waiting was a mistake. After encouragement from the Lord that he triumph (v. 6), Joshua launched a surprise attack (v. 7). "And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel" (v. 8). Joshua did all that Jehovah told him to do, including hamstringing the horses and burning the chariots (v. 9).

Capture of the cities (vs. 10-15)--The king of Hazor had been the leader of this northern alliance, so Joshua made an example of him and his city. He killed the king (v. 10), and then destroyed the city, annihilating the inhabitants thereof (v. 11). He also killed all the people of the other cities of the alliance (vs. 12, 14), but he didn't burn them (v. 13). There was a lot to be taken: "And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the children of Israel took as booty for themselves" (v. 14). One of the reasons for Joshua's success was his obedience to God: "As the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses" (v. 15).

The extent of the conquest (vs. 16-20)--The writer then tells the extent of Joshua's conquests, north and south. It wasn't easy; "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings" (v. 18), mainly because "There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon" (v. 19). But the Lord had intended, for a long time, to punish these people, "that He might utterly destroy them" (v. 20). He had told Abraham, back in Genesis 15, that one of the reasons the children of Israel would be delayed 400 years before taking the land of promise was that "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete" (Gen. 15:16). These people had been very wicked, trying God's patience for a long time. But, as of yet (Abraham's day), they were not fully ripe for the Lord's justice. By the time He was ready to give them the land of Canaan, He would have had His fill of those evil, idolatrous people and want them wiped from the face of the earth.

The defeat of the Anakim (vs. 21-23)--The Anakim were a group of people who dwelt, in various tribes, in the south part of Canaan. We meet them in the days of Abraham (Gen. 14:5-6), and their fierce, warlike appearance was one of the reasons 10 of the 12 spies Moses sent in to reconnoiter the land came back with a negative report (Numbers. 13:33). They seem to have been identified with the Nephilim, the "giants" of Genesis 6:4 (see the spies report in Numbers 13:33). Joshua expelled them from the land, except for a small remnant that remained in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (v. 22). It's possible that some of the "giants" David faced (II Sam. 21:15-22) were descendants of the Anakim; they were in the same region.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Joshua 10

The alliance against Gibeon (vs. 1-5)—I find it interesting that the kings of five cities—Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon—made an alliance against Gibeon and not Israel. Who was the greater danger? But, apparently the five kings were disgusted that Gibeon had made peace with the Israelites, so they decided to make war against that city (v. 5).

The sun stands still (vs. 6-15)—Not surprisingly, the Gibeonites turn to their new allies for help. “’Do not forsake your servants; come up to us quickly, save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the mountains have gathered together against us’" (v. 6). And Joshua responded without hesitating (v. 7). The Lord assured him of victory (v. 8). Joshua made a forced march (v. 9), and a surprise attack upon the alliance of five kings, and “the LORD routed them before Israel” (v. 10). Jehovah helped Israel’s cause further by casting down “large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword” (v. 11).

It wasn’t quite as simple, or as short, as the above summation implies. The battle stretched for so long that Joshua asked for an extended day: “’Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies” (vs. 12-13). This period lasted “for about a whole day” (v. 13). This is a notable miracle indeed, and commentators have made a big deal of it, trying to explain how it happened, etc. etc. etc., but God could do something like this in His sleep, so there’s no reason to go ga-ga over the thing. I don’t want to minimize any great act of Jehovah, I just don’t believe it was a difficult thing for Him to do, no more difficult than any other miracle wrought by divine power. Once the battle was finally finished, Joshua returned to his base at Gilgal (v. 15).

Death of the alliance kings (vs. 16-27)—When they had determined the battle was lost, the “five kings had fled and hidden themselves in a cave at Makkedah” (v. 16). Joshua made sure they stayed there by having a large stone rolled over the mouth of the cave (v. 18), and then once the battle was over, had them executed (v. 26). Such would serve as a warning to all of Israel’s enemies of the consequences of opposition to the people of Jehovah.

The southern conquest (vs. 28-43)—The remainder of the chapter briefly details Joshua’s conquest of the southern region of Canaan. He attacked, and captured, the leading cities of the area, including some which had joined the alliance against Gibeon. He took Libna (vs. 29-30), Lachish and Gezer (vs. 31-33), Egon (vs. 34-35), Hebron (vs. 36-37), and Debir (vs. 38-39). The chapter ends with a note on the extent of the land Joshua conquered.