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The work of crushing the armies of the five kings, who had encamped before Gibeon to make war against it, was but half done and the day was far spent. As was said, the enemy might still escape before being completely destroyed. Then there formed in Joshua’s soul the passionate desire that the day might be prolonged “until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.” The desire crystallized into a prayer of faith, which is quoted in the sacred text from the “Book of Jasher” i.e., “Book of the Upright.”

“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 all Israel, Sun stand still upon Gibeon; and moon, in the valley of Ajalon.

“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

“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.

“And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.” Joshua 10:12-15.

This miracle has from first to last occasioned an immensity of perplexity and discussion. The standing still of the sun and moon or the lengthening of the day from twelve to eighteen or twenty hours is no more to be understood literally, it is said, than that fighting of the stars down out of their courses (Judg. 6:20), or the melting down of the mountains (Isa. 34:3), the rending of the heavens (Ps. 18:10), or the skipping of the Lebanon (Ps. 29:6), the clapping of the hands by the trees in the field (Isa. 4:12), the leaping of the mountains and the hills (Ps. 114:46), the bowing of the heavens (Ps. 18:10). It is the language of poetry with winch we here deal, and poetry, too, of the most figurative kind. Thus it is not an unheard of miracle with which we here have to do. Such is the view.

But how is the language (from the “Book of the Upright”) to be taken if it is not to be taken literally. There are several answers. The day was prolonged, according to some, also on the supposition that it appeared to Joshua and to Israel wonderfully lengthened, the work accomplished on it being so great that it would without supernatural help have required two days. The rationalizing interpretation imagines extraordinary refractions of the light of the sun already set or a combining of lightning with the light of the sun and moon so that there was no night, so to speak, between this and the following day.

The untenableness of these views is obvious. They militate against the language of the sacred text. The view that the day simply appeared to Joshua wonderfully lengthened is a sheer conjecture. Besides, there is no agreement as to whether the language is that of prosaic narrative of or poetry or as to whether the whole of the passage (verses 12-15) is a quotation from “The Book of the Upright.” Since the Bible, in its present form, is the infallible word of God, this latter question is of no importance whatever when it comes to ascertaining, on the ground of the text, just what took place.

Now according to the report of the sacred narrator, “The Sun stood still in the midst of the heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day.” To the unbiased mind, this is not figurative speech, as are such expressions as “The trees clapped their hands” but plain prosaic narrative. The sacred narrator, in compiling his book, was not writing poetry; it is history that he was narrating. The statement in question can therefore mean but one thing. It unequivocally asserts that, on account of the standing still of the sun, the day was actually lengthened by a space of time equivalent to a whole day. To speak here of a lengthening of the day simply in the consciousness of Joshua or of a refraction of the light of the sun already set is to deny what the text actually asserts, is thus to impose upon it a meaning that it cannot have. What those interpreters, who deny the objective reality of what is here narrated, give us is not exegesis but baseless speculation.

Thus what the words express is an objectively real and miraculous extension of that day in response to the prayers of Joshua. All objections which have been raised against the fact of such a miracle are worthless. Thus the appeal to the immutability of the celestial bodies fixed by unchangeable laws is invalidated by the fact and truth that the laws of creation are but the modes of manifestation of the power of God. Laws they are that have their being in Him and operate not otherwise but by His will. If the objection could be sustained, all miracles would be impossible.

Finally, the language of the text does not compel us to assume that the sun, in its course, was brought to a state of rest. For the Scriptures here speaks of the behavior of the sun according to its appearance to Joshua, as we also speak of the rising and setting of the sun, although we are satisfied in our minds that the earth revolves about the sun. Though Joshua’s astronomical knowledge had been as advanced as ours, he still would have clothed his prayer in the language reported in the Scriptures. That the optical standstill of the sun was affected by the arrest of the revolution of the earth on its axis, is likely but not certain. It may also have been affected through God’s power in an astronomical wonder wholly unknown to us and incomprehensible by natural wisdom. But what must be maintained is that the sun, after the time of its setting, actually continued visible in Joshua’s heaven about a whole day.

Being of all the typical wonders of God the most amazing—“There was no day like that before it, or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man. . .”—it, this wonder, so strikingly illustrates how all nature—heaven and earth and the fullness thereof—is subservient to the salvation of God’s people, is in league with them and must help them to victory. Finally, Joshua’s effectual prayer, its amazing power, preindicates the power of Christ with God.

With the standing still of the sun and the moon, Joshua received a most wonderful token of the fact of God’s presence and favor. The war of extermination was now prosecuted with great vigor and in strict obedience to the commands of God. The hail-storm had inflicted terrible losses upon the enemy. Those that died not of the hail fled, as pursued by Israel, through the pass of Nether Bethhoran to Azekah and thence to Makkedah, where the five kings sought to secure their persons, and hid themselves in one of the many caves which were found in the lime and chalk rocks of Palestine and which were well fitted for places of refuge in times of danger. Under the direction of Joshua, large stones were rolled to the mouth of the cave into, which the kings had fled, and an armed guard was stationed in its entrance. The rest of the army pursued, the enemy and completely discomfited them. The remnant of the fugitives fled to the “fenced cities.” Joshua himself did not lead in the pursuit but remained behind to establish the headquarters of his camp before Makkedah. Thither the people returned in peace. “None moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel,” i.e., no one ventured to do them any harm.

The cave was now opened and the kings brought before Joshua. They were made to prostrate themselves and at Joshua’s command the captains of the army came forward and put their feet upon their necks. The ceremony indicated entire subjugation of these kings and of all the remaining Canaanitish powers as well. “Fear not, nor be dismayed,” said Joshua to his captains, “be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.” The kings were killed and their bodies hung on five trees. The one suspended was considered accursed and might not remain hanging over night.

The death of the five kings marked the beginning of a conflict that may have lasted for months and that did not end until the whole of southern Palestine west of the Jordan was conquered by the Israelites. Named are the cities Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir. We are informed that Joshua smote the whole land, the mountains, the southland, the lowlands, and the foothills, from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and the whole land of Goshen to Gibeon. After the completion of the conquest he returned to the camp at Gilgal on the Jordan. He was successful because God fought for Israel. A complete destruction was effected, because Joshua destroyed all that had breath.

We now enter upon a new theatre of the conquests of Joshua, the northern part of west Palestine. The combination that now went out to fight against him embraced a vast multitude, “even as the sands that is upon the sea shore with horses and chariots very many.” Gathered together were Jabin king of Hazor, Jobab king of Madon, the king of Shimron, and the king of Achshaph, and the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chnneroth, and in the valley, and in the border of Dor on the west, and the Canaanites on the east and on the west, and the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains and the Hivite under Hermon. The confederacy which at first had included the five kings of the south already vanquished by Joshua, had come into being, no doubt, shortly after the fall of Jericho. But it would take considerable time to assemble a host so vast. Meanwhile the Gibeonites refused to join the movement and made peace with Joshua. Their neighbors were angry, especially the king of Jerusalem, and without waiting to be joined by the forces from the north, went forth to punish their disloyalty. Joshua at once hastened to their relief and inflicted a crushing defeat upon the confederates. Had this battle not been fought, had Joshua repudiated his treaty with the Gibeonites, the opposition now to be overcome would have been more formidable still. For nothing could have hindered the southern kings from joining their forces to those of the kings from the north in the warfare against the Israelites. So did the fraud of the Gibeonites work well for the people of Israel.

Joshua was not allowed to rest long after his defeat of Adonizedek and his brethren. The effect of the news of that disaster upon the kings of the north was to arouse, them to immediate action. “And it came to pass when Jabin, king of Hazor, had heard these things that he sent,” sent to all his confederates. It was thus Jabin who headed the new conspiracy. Jabin was apparently the official title of the chief ruler of Hazor, for when, at a subsequent period, the place has been rebuilt, Jabin is again the name of its chief ruler (Judg. 4:2, 17).

Hazor was an important royal seat of the Canaanites. Destroyed by Joshua, it was afterward rebuilt, as was said, and again became a kingly capital. The sites of this and the other cities named are unknown. Hazor perhaps lay on the west of the sea Merom. The matter is of no importance. All that it was necessary to reveal is that Hazor was situated near Merom, and was the capital of a powerful kingdom. The other cities mentioned—Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph—lay, apparently, not far from Hazor. The mountains referred to are those of Naphthali (Josh. 19:32). “The plains south of Ohihneroth” denotes the Ghor of the Jordan, south of the sea of Galilee; the “lowland” probably denotes the maritime plain from the Philistines northward; “The borders of Dor,” the highlands about a city on the seacoast, which belonged later to Manassah (Josh. 17:2), by which tribe its Canaanitish inhabitants were not driven out (Judg. 1:27). The sacred narrator does not mention all the places that contributed to the confederacy, but comprehends them all in the statement “Oanaanites on the east and on the west Amorites, Hittites, the Jebusites in the mountains, the Perezzites, and the Hivites under Hermon. The combined forces must have been extraordinary large, as numerous “as the sand that is upon, the sea shore in multitude.” According to Josephus, there were 300,000 footmen, 10,000 horsemen, and 20,000 chariots; but these figures cannot be accepted as reliable. Horses and chariots were instruments of warfare which the people of Israel were, forbidden to employ. Of such arms they had no need as the Lord fought for them. As armed, with this truth, they were invincible in battle, however formidable the opposition, however certain that, in the point of view of nature, they were doomed to defeat.

The vast company came together and pitched at the waters of Merom, the little lake where the three streamlets that form the Jordan unite. Probably the allied kings had pitched their camp to the north of these waters, for there a large plain spreads itself out. From thence they might launch forth against Joshua, who could be expected to come up by way of’ the Jordan valley. If this was their plan, it was defeated by the promptness of Joshua, who resolved to fall on them by surprise so that they should be unable to bring their forces into action.

It was a perilous undertaking, and Joshua, therefore, had need of encouragement of the Lord. He was already on the march, it must be, when the Lord communicated to him this message. “Be not afraid because of them: for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shall lame their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” As sustained by this promise, Joshua suddenly arrived at the waters of Merom and fell on the enemy. Seized by a panic, they fled in consternation, without striking one blow, so it seems. One portion made for Misrephoth-maim in the southwest; another made for Zidon, in the north; a third struck in an easterly direction to the valley of Mispeh. But the victory was the Lord’s. The sacred narrative never fails to bring this out. He does so now: “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel. …”

The enemy was smitten until none of them remained. Having dealt with their horses and chariots as Jehovah had bidden—he had received the command: to burn their chariots and to render the horses unfit for military enterprise through injuring them in the leg or foot—Joshua returned and destroyed Hazor, the capital of the league that had just been, broken up. So “he turned back and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword; for Hazor before time, was the head of those kingdoms.” For this reason Hazor was treated like Jericho. It was burned and devoted, as were also the other cities of the confederacy. On the contrary, “the cities that stood on their hill,” i.e., the fortified mountain cities, were not burned. But the cattle was taken for a prey and the humans slain. Whether Joshua, in not burning this one class of cities, was carrying out divine instruction, is not stated. But he must have, as no criticism whatever is brought to bear upon his tactics as military chieftain. It is expressly stated that “He left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:15).

So was the conquest of Western Palestine virtually completed. First, by the capture of Jericho, Joshua had gained possession of the Jordan valley. By taking Ai and Bethel, he had opened, the way to the great plateau of Western Palestine, and by his victories, of Gibeon and Bethhoron over the southern kings, he hadconquered all that country. Of his warfare with the inhabitants of the central part, the sacred writer tells us nothing. The northern section had been brought under Israel’s sway at Merom. But the land of the Philistines and the territory held by Tyre and Zidon and some small kingdom on the north-east were not subdued. The subjugation of these parts was a task reserved for others. “Thou art old and stricken in years,’’ said the Lord to Joshua, “and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” Nevertheless, his conquest had embraced the whole of Palestine. Emphasis is laid on this fact. “So Joshua took all the land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the lowland of the same; from mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baal-gad, in the valley of Lebanon, under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them and slew them” (Josh. 11:16-17).

It is stated that “Joshua made war a long time with all these kings” (Josh. 11:18). According to a reliable calculation, at least five years had been spent by them. The pitched battles of Bethhoron and Meron could have lasted but a few days; but the sieges of the various cities required a long time, yet not so long considering their number, position, and strength. Many of them were walled cities, situated on fortified hills. The number of kings subdued were thirty two (Ch. 11). Most of them, it is true, were petty chieftains.

There still remain two statements to which attention must be directed. One is that “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. . .” (Josh. 11:10). Had they made peace with Joshua, they would have been spared as well as the Gibeonites. It is amiss to say that, because of their abominable past, the Canaanites would have been destroyed, had they repented. No sinner goes lost, who truly desires salvation. Whosoever will may come. Nor should it be said that, because they are reprobated, and thus doomed to everlasting desolation, they would have perished though they had turned to God. Reprobation excludes repentance and thus calls for persistent unbelief. The facts of the matter are these: Whereas it was the sovereign good pleasure of God to destroy the Canaanites, He, during the entire four hundred years and not first, as some contend, at the close of this period, also sovereignly hardened their hearts, and thus prepared them for their destiny. The result of this was that they could not will to do otherwise but to defy God and continue to defy Him to the end, which they also did; and on this account they perished in their sins. “There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel. . . . .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 favor, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:20).

The history of the conquest of Canaan has given great offence to the opponents of Christianity, to the primitive heathen and Jews, and to English deists and German rationalists. The Manichaeans classified it among “the cruel things which Moses did and commanded,” and which went to prove, according to their view, that the God of the Old Testament could not be the God of the new. Eichhorn, among others, in his Introduction, p. 403 (in Keil’s commentary on Joshua) uses strong words, exclaiming in moral indignation: “How impious is the narrative in the Book of Joshua! It makes God not only give way to the Israelites, against all right, the land of Canaan, which the Canaanites as the first occupants most justly held, but also sketch out a horrid plan for its conquest, and directly under the most dreadful bloodship and the total extinction of the Canaanites. Who can reconcile this with even a partially correct view of the Godhead?”

These objections must be met. Firstly, the earth and its fullness is the Lord’s. What is His He may give to whomsoever He will. Secondly, the Canaanites were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly, and thus doubly deserving of the doom by which they were overtaken. Had they forsaken their abominations and turned to God, they would have been saved. But this they would not. They choose to defy God and thus choose death. And what they choose, they received. Why then find fault with God. The wages of sin is death. And God is righteous. He pays the sinner his wage. “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?”

The warfare of Joshua, all his military achievements, were wonders, miracles, as truly as were the ten plagues of Egypt through which the Lord humbled Pharaoh. These achievements formed a new, marvelous, and terrible work of Israel’s God through which He, in His fathomless love, freed the promised land from the godless men by whom it was corrupted.

It is so plain that God fought for Israel. Consider the Canaanites. They would gather themselves together to do battle with God’s people. In the crucial moment the Lord would look upon them, as He once looked upon the Egyptians. Then they were afraid, and would flee in three and four directions without striking a blow.

To say that the Lord looked upon them is simply to maintain the following. The hearts of the Canaanites, as are the hearts of all men, were in the hands of the Lord. Hence, He could turn their hearts as He willed. (In Psalm 25 we read of the Lord turning the hearts of the Egyptians to hate His people). He could terrify the Canaanites which He also did by awakening in them, by things made and done, and spoken, strongest consciousness of His presence and of His determination and power to destroy them on account of their abominations and defiance to Him and His people. Also the conquest of Canaan, to be sure, was a typical miracle. It was thus prophetic of the second coming of Christ in judgment over the world, of His freeing this earth, through judgment from the godless who now possess and corrupt it.