Comments On Joshua
Joshua is a book of victory, not in every detail, but in its overall character. Joshua's name is the same as Jesus in the Greek language, meaning "Jehovah is Savior." Moses has been seen as a type of Christ as ruler, leading His people through the wilderness, with the promised land in view. But Joshua is a type of Christ in resurrection, establishing His people in their heavenly inheritance. Therefore, he pictures Christ as regarded subjectively, not objectively. For this reason Joshua's experience in Chapter 5:13-15 is most important. When a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn, Joshua asked him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" But the answer was, "No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come." If we are to engage in spiritual conflict, it is not enough to have Christ in us, but we must also have Christ in authority over us.
By the Spirit of God today Christ dwells in every believer to enable him to enter into the great spiritual truths to which he is entitled, truths that are connected with his heavenly inheritance. Yet let us not depend on the fact that Christ is in us. Rather we depend on the great Commander who is above us. For the Spirit of God within us always seeks to lead us in true obedience to Christ in glory above us. Thus, when God gives the word we should be prepared to fully obey because we have His Spirit within us. The book of Joshua therefore contains many exhortations to be strong and of good courage. Joshua needed this, as did all Israel, and we no less today.
Yet this courage is to be calmly dependent on God, for Israel is not seen rushing eagerly into battle, but with calm deliberation taking each step as guided by the Word of the Lord. They entered the promised land by means of the hand of God parting the River Jordan, which is typical of the death and resurrection of Christ introducing believers into their heavenly inheritance. Each enemy in turn must give way to God's power among His armies.
This book compares with Ephesians in the New Testament, for the land of Canaan speaks of "heavenly places," the present sphere into which believers are brought "in Christ Jesus." Our blessings are there (Eph. 1:3), our position is there (Eph. 2:6), and our conflict is there also (Eph. 6:12). But we are given "the whole armor of God" by which to resist and defeat the hosts of Satan, who seeks to hinder our enjoying what is rightly ours. If Joshua was told the Word of God was to be his meditation "day and night" (Josh. 1:8), how much more reason do Christians have for meditation on the Word of God continually, for we have all the New Testament as well as the Old. May we deeply value all the Word of God.
THE LORD'S CHARGE TO JOSHUA (vv. 1-9)
Since Moses had passed off the scene, the Lord now speaks directly to Joshua. Joshua had been prepared for leadership by his close association with Moses for many years. Never is there any indication that he aspired to this place of honor, but in God's time he was able to fit into this place because he was God's choice for it.
The Lord gave him clear, simple instructions to cross the Jordan, and all Israel with him, into the land provided them by God (v. 2). There was to be calm decision in steadily going forward, for the Lord promised that "everyplace that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you" (v. 3). They were expected to take possession of it, just as believers today are expected to take possession of the vital truths connected with their present inheritance in "heavenly places."
The borders described in verse 4 are more extended than Israel has ever yet possessed, for it included the wilderness (in the south), Lebanon (in the north) and eastward as far as the Euphrates River. Or, if looking westward, all the land of the Hittites (toward the east), and to the Great Sea (the Mediterranean) was included. In Genesis 15:18-21 God's promise to Abram gave the borders from a viewpoint further south --" from the river of Egypt (the Nile) to the great river, the River Euphrates." Israel will eventually, in the millennium, possess all this property, but only when they have received their Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Then He will clear the way for them to claim their full inheritance.
How wonderful the encouragement given to Joshua then, that no one would be able to stand against him all the days of his life, for God would be with him as He was with Moses. This encouragement is intended too for all now who are "in Christ Jesus." As we depend on Him, no enemy can prevail against us, for we read concerning the Church built by Christ, "the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it" (Mt. 16:18). Let the words of the Lord burn deeply into every believer's heart, "I will not leave you nor forsake you" (v. 5). Such a promise is a wonderful basis for faith to "be strong and of good courage" (v. 6). Yet it is not a selfish courage, for Joshua was to divide the land as an inheritance for all the children of Israel. He was to be a leader whose concern was first for the glory of God, and which therefore also involved concern for the children of Israel.
Verse 6 emphasizes Joshua's strength and courage in relationship to the people; now in verse 7 he is urged to be strong and very courageous in observing to act upon the law Moses had given. This involved his relationship to God, which was of vital importance if his relationship to the people was to be maintained in faithful integrity. He was to be consistently well balanced, not to waver in one direction or the other, in which way he would prosper. We today are not under law, but God's governing hand is still over us, and we are called to so value the grace of God that we should be willingly obedient to the truth revealed in the New Testament.
The Book of the Law was to be the meditation of Joshua day and night, in order that he might do all that was written therein (v. 8). We today need, not only the Old Testament, but the whole truth of the New Testament if we are to have spiritual prosperity and success.
It is the living God who commanded Joshua. Therefore again he is told to be strong and of good courage (v. 9). He had no reason to give way to fear or discouragement, for the Lord God was with him wherever he went. Even when we have learned the Word of God there may be still a danger of giving way to fear, so that we need constant encouragement from the Lord.
INSTRUCTIONS IN VIEW OF CROSSING JORDAN (vv. 10-18)
There was to be no rushing to cross the Jordan and yet no delay either, but calm deliberation and action. Joshua commanded the officers of the people to tell the people to prepare provisions for themselves, for in three days they would pass over Jordan (vv. 10-11).
Then Joshua addressed the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh, who had obtained possessions for themselves on the east of Jordan. They were not on this account to be exempt from warfare. Moses had made it clear to them that, though they were allowed to settle east of Jordan, and their wives, children and livestock could remain there, yet all able bodied men were to accompany the rest of Israel into Canaan to help them in conquest of the enemy (vv. 12-14). Not till all Israel were settled in peace in the land were these warriors to return to their possessions east of Jordan (v. 15). This was to be an effective testimony to the unity of Israel. We too should have such concern for the blessing of all the children of God.
Theresponse of these men is commendable, being fully agreeable to do just as Joshua commanded. They desired to be as subject to Joshua as they had been to Moses, and expressed the desire that the Lord God would be with Joshua as He was with Moses (vv. 16-17). There was general unity in this, yet they added that if any individual among them rebelled against Joshua's command, he would be put to death. Then they repeated to Joshua what God had told him, "Only be strong and of good courage." How deeply does every believer need this positive message!
THE SPIES RECEIVED AND HIDDEN BY RAHAB (vv. 1-24)
Joshua then sent two spies to "view the land, especially Jericho" (v. 1).Twelve men had been sent before at the request of the people (Deut.1:22-23). At that time the people wanted to find out whether they were likely to be able to overcome the enemy, and ten of the twelve spies reported that the odds were against them, so that the people refused to go in. Only Joshua and Caleb urged that they should launch an attack because they knew God could easily overpower the enemy on their behalf, but the rebellion of the people resulted in 38 more years of wandering in the wilderness. In this case, however, the men are told to view especially Jericho. They were not sent to make a decision as to whether to attack Jericho, but rather to find out Jericho's condition in view of Israel's attacking them. For Joshua had already told Israel that in three days they would cross the Jordan. There was firm decision to go forward, and Jericho was the first object of attack. In the sending of the spies God had at least two objectives in view, (1) to confirm to Israel the fact that God was already weakening the hearts of the Canaanites, and(2) to save Rahab and her household from destruction.
It so happened that the spies found lodging in the home of a woman who proved to be a harlot. Sinful as she was, the Lord had begun a work of repentance and faith in her heart, as her words to the spies proved. It was not lust that led them to her home, but it was God's grace that did so. When the king of Jericho heard that Israelites had come to Jericho as spies, he demanded that Rahab should deliver them to him (v. 3). But she was the one person in that whole city who had been awakened to realize that Israel was serving the true God and that His rights were paramount, so that she decided she must take sides with God against her own nation. When the messengers came to Rahab, she lied to them, telling them that though the men had come to her house, she did not know where they were from and they had left again as darkness was falling (v. 5). The messengers accepted her word for it, and her suggestion that they pursue them quickly.
Was it right for Rahab to lie? No, it is never right to lie. Yet Rahab lied because she had faith in God. Not that faith made her lie, but she could see no other way of protecting the spies. Possibly a more mature faith would have acted differently, for God could work a miracle to protect the spies, if he so chose. The fact that she lied showed her faith, but also showed the weakness of her faith.
"But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof" (v. 6). There is a lovely spiritual significance in this. She had the material from which linen is made, laid in order. Linen is a symbol of "the righteous acts of saints" (Rev. 19:8). Thus, though Rahab had been given over to sin, yet God had so worked in her heart that now there was in her own house the material for acts of righteousness, and in becoming order. Her life had been previously disorderly, but here was promise of change.
When the men of the city had gone out in pursuit of the spies, the gates were shut, then Rahab came to the spies before they slept, and spoke to them in such away that there was no doubt that God had truly awakened her to some reality of faith in Him (vv. 7-8). She told them, "I know that the Lord has given you the land." She had witnessed the fear of all the inhabitants of the land, for they had heard of God's bringing Israel through the Red Sea and of their more recent destruction of the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og (vv. 9-10).
Having such reports, Rahab says, "our hearts melted," and courage deserted the people of the land. The report brought fear to all the people generally, but it awakened faith in Rahab, who declares firmly, "The Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath" (v. 11).
Then she pleads with the spies, on the basis of her faith in showing kindness to them, that when Israel conquers Jericho, they will spare her father's house, her father, mother, brothers and sisters, delivering them all from being put to death (vv. 12-13). This is a clear evidence of a work of God in her heart, for harlotry shows no regard for proper family relationships. Similarly, when one has been saved from an ungodly life today, it is wonderful to see how concerned he or she is that close relatives should be saved.
The spies willingly promise her this favor, but on condition that she and her family do not betray them to others. The spies could not leave by the gate, which had been closed, but since Rahab's house was on the wall, she let them down by a rope from her window. She suggested their going the opposite way from Jordan, to hide for three days till the pursuers were back in the city.
No doubt before they were let down they spoke the words of verses 17-20, instructing her to bind the line of scarlet cord in her window, which would mark out her house as that to be spared when Israel conquered Jericho. She must bring her family into the house at that time, for anyone outside the house could not count on any protection (vv. 18-19). This may remind us of the Passover in Egypt, when everyone inside a house which was marked by blood on the doorposts and lintels was safe from God's judgment (Ex. 12:12-13). So the red cord symbolizes the blood of Christ which shelters from judgment.
The spies then went do the mountain to hide for three days before returning over the Jordan to bring to Joshua the report that the inhabitants of the country had become fainthearted because of Israel, and therefore it was evident that God had delivered them into Israel's hands. Of course they would report the case of Rahab also.
THE CROSSING OF JORDAN (vv. 1-17)
The next morning Joshua arose early and led Israel to the river. There may be a question as regards the three days spoken of in chapter 2:11 and the three days the spies hid. Whether the latter two are the same three days spoken of in chapter 2:11 seems to be rather unclear; but the spiritual lesson of three days is the most important, speaking of resurrection, thus Israel acting in "newness of life," the energy of resurrection power.
The people were told they were to follow the ark of the covenant carried by the priests (v. 3). However, they were to allow a space of 2000 cubits between them and the ark. Thus, all would be able to see the ark and recognize its leading. In other words, they would not be merely following one another. Thus, for us today also, we see Christ in the distance before us, and each individual is to be concerned to personally follow Him, yet giving Him the sole honor that belongs to Him, of being the distinct and distinguished leader of His people.
Joshua then commanded the people to sanctify themselves in view of the Lord's doing wonders among them (v. 5). Sanctification involves separation from what does not honor God and separation to God, for He was to work mightily among them. We too should be morally prepared for receiving God's blessing, by being set apart for His glory.
The time had now come for another amazing miracle of God on behalf of Israel. Joshua told the priests to take up the ark and begin the crossing of the River Jordan (v. 6). The Lord at the same time told Joshua that now He would begin to magnify Joshua in the sight of Israel in order that they might realize that as God was with Moses, so He was now with Joshua (v. 7). He is told then to instruct the priests to carry the ark and actually stand in the water at the edge of Jordan (v. 8).
Speaking to all Israel, Joshua informs them beforehand how God was going to work among them, giving the assurance by what He would do that day, that He is indeed the living God who would without fail drive out the seven nations from the land before the children of Israel. "The ark of the covenant of all the earth," he tells them "is crossing over before you into the Jordan" (v.11). They were therefore to appoint a man from each tribe as a representative (v. 12).This was in view of chapter 4:2.
Joshua assures them in advance that as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark would rest in the waters of Jordan, the waters would be cut off, no longer flowing, but standing as a heap upstream from them (v. 13).
Thus, neither Joshua nor the people were taken by surprise when this astounding miracle took place. The priests' feet barely dipped in the water at the edge of Jordan when the waters were cut off. It must have been a tremendous heap of waters that accumulated far upstream, especially since at that time the river was at flood stage (vv. 15-16). Typically, Jordan is the river of death (running into the Dead Sea), and the heaping up of the waters speaks of the death of the Lord Jesus, who bore the overflowing judgment of God for us at Calvary, taking all that judgment into His own bosom in order that we might have none whatever to bear. For the people passed over on dry ground, while the priests with the ark remained in the middle of Jordan until all the people had crossed over (v. 17). Thus all the power of death was defeated. So, in the cross of Christ we see death's power annulled and believers now identified with Christ in resurrection, though this is particularly seen in the stones taken from the Jordan in Chapter 4:5.
STONES OF MEMORIAL
Only when all were passed over did Joshua, at God's command, instruct that each of the twelve chosen men should carry a stone out of the midst of Jordan, from the place where the priests had stood, and take them to the place where they would encamp that night (vs.4-5). This was to be a sign for Israel when their children would ask the meaning of the stones set as they were (v.6). The spiritual significance is quite simple. The stones taken out of the water (the place of death) are typical of Israel being taken through death into resurrection life. All the tribes are represented, just as all believers today are seen by God as "risen with Christ" (Col.3:1).
The crossing of the Jordan certainly reminds us of the passage of the Red Sea. But the emphasis in the case of the Red Sea was Israel's deliverance out of Egypt; while the crossing of Jordan emphasizes Israel's entrance into the land of promise. This is the positive side of Israel's blessing and reminds us of God's words concerning the saints of God today, "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ"(Eph.1:3). Thus, the death and resurrection of Christ not only separates us from a hostile world, but it invests us with wealth beyond all imagination in a place of pure joy and eternal glory. Canaan is of course only a faint picture of this.
The children of the Israelites then were to be instructed as to the meaning of the stones, just as children of believers should be instructed as to the death and resurrection of Christ being the basis of all blessing for His people. We today have a memorial of this great work of God in the Lord's supper, for believers are told, "Do this in remembrance of Me" (Lk.22:19). Our children too should be taught diligently as to the significance of this memorial.
As well as the stones set up in the land, Joshua (not the twelve men) set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan (v.9). They would be soon covered with water, therefore unseen. This is a picture, not of our having resurrection life in Christ, but of our having died with Christ, our past therefore, as it were, blotted out. It is Christ's death that has done this: we had no part in that work. So it was Joshua who set up these stones. But believers are privileged to enter into and enjoy the resurrection life we have now in Christ, as seen in the stones set up by the twelve men.
Though historically the death of Christ came before His resurrection, yet the resurrection side (the stones in the land) is mentioned first because it is the positive side of the truth, and the blessing of the new life is to be emphasized in the book of Joshua.
The priests who carried the ark remained in the midst of Jordan as a guarantee that there was no danger to the people, till all this was finished and all the people had passed over, then they too crossed over with the ark.
It is good to see that about 40,000 of the men of Reuben and Gad and of the half tribe of Manasseh kept their word to cross over Jordan, all prepared for war, with the rest of Israel, though their families and possessions remained on the eastern side (vs.12,13).
This marvelous event of the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground could not but deeply impress all Israel, and God used it to exalt Joshua in their eyes (v.14). Similarly, the more marvelous miracle of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from among the dead surely exalts Him in our eyes. From this time forth Israel would have full reason to respect and honor the leadership of Joshua.
At the Lord's command Joshua told the priests bearing the ark to come up out of Jordan (vs.15-17), and as soon as they reached the ground not affected by the overflowing waters, the waters returned to the same flood stage as before (v.18). Thus no one would be able to follow Israel on dry ground. Only true believers can know what it means to have died with Christ and to be raised with Christ.
Verse 19 tells us the date of this event, the tenth day of the first month. Would they not remember that this was the date they were told in Egypt to take a young lamb and keep it for four days until the Passover? (Ex.12:2-3) This signified a new beginning for Israel. Now they also face a new beginning, but in how different circumstances! But the twelve stones taken by the twelve men out of Jordan were set up by Joshua as a memorial in Gilgal (v.20). Then Joshua repeated to Israel what he had said in verses 6-7, reminding them to answer their children's questions in the future by giving them the full truth of their crossing the Jordan on dry ground when the Lord dried up the waters for them (vs.21-23). Why should this be insisted upon? Because it is a natural tendency for us to forget even such great miracles of God's power and to slip into a lax, careless condition. The children too, who had not seen this great miracle, would not be so impressed by hearing of it unless their parents impressed them as having a great appreciation of this work of God. Moreover, this was intended to affect all the peoples of the earth (v.24), as well as instilling the fear of God in all Israel.
CIRCUMCISION IN GILGAL
The miraculous crossing of the Jordan awakened great fear in the hearts of the Canaanitish people, so that their hearts melted (v.1). This was God's work. It was He who was preparing the way for Israel's victorious conquest of the land of promise.
Military strategy would have dictated that Israel should immediately strike then while the advantage was on their side. But the Lord did not allow this. He knew that Israel needed preparation of a different sort than men would advise. For if we are going to judge others on God's behalf, we must first learn to judge ourselves. Israel had been a circumcised nation when coming out of Egypt, but the younger generation had not been circumcised (v.5). The spiritual meaning of circumcision is told us in Philippians 3:3: "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The cutting off of the flesh is imperative if we are to engage in any warfare for God: we must learn to judge the sin of our own hearts or we cannot judge sin in others.
Joshua was required to make flint knives by which the men of Israel were to be circumcised (vs.3-4). This was totally contrary to military strategy, for it would leave them naturally greatly weakened in case the enemy attacked. But God was able to keep the enemy in check, and His word is most vital if any results for Him are to be obtained.
Verse 6 reminds us that Israel was kept for forty years in the wilderness because they disobeyed the Lord's instructions to enter Canaan (v.6), so that that generation of men had died and their sons now were circumcised. They remained in the camp till they were healed (v.8), which required three days. The Lord's words at this time are instructive, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you" (v.9). Gilgal means "rolling away" Egypt is typical of the world, which has kept believers in bondage, but the bondage was broken by the death of Christ, pictured in the Red Sea. Yet, to enter into the truth of this practically requires the application of the death sentence to ourselves personally. When this death sentence is made vital to the individual (as symbolized in circumcision), he realizes that he is, not only in principle, but in practice, dead to the world. The reproach of Egypt is thus rolled away, for it is final, definite separation from all that is of Egypt (the world).
Circumcision depicts the negative side of the truth, that is, saying "No" to the flesh, and in the New Testament baptism answers to circumcision, for baptism also speaks of virtually putting the flesh in the place of death, or of burial. We shall see as we go on in Joshua that the positive side is presented to us, where all blessing is centered in Christ.
THE PASSOVER KEPT
While we have seen that circumcision deals with what is negative, the judgment of sin in our own flesh, now the keeping of the Passover is intended to direct our eyes to the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, the positive Object set before our eyes. It was four days after crossing the Jordan that Israel kept the Passover. We read of their keeping the Passover only once in the wilderness, the second year after leaving Egypt (Num.9:1-5). Of course, those who were not circumcised were not permitted to keep the Passover (Ex.12:48). But now that circumcision had taken place, the truth of the Passover is revived (v.10). Only when the flesh is put in its place of death will we give to the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice the place of honor that belongs to Him.
Neither the circumcising of the men of Israel nor keeping the Passover would appeal to the minds of common soldiers as being of help in warfare, but for believers it is imperative that they first take their own proper place and give Christ His proper place before they can hope for victory.
Besides this, the day following the Passover they ate of the produce of the land of Canaan, unleavened bread and parched grain (v.11). They had previously eaten manna all through the wilderness, but the day after eating of the land's produce the manna ceased. The manna was intended to humble Israel, for it is wilderness food, typical of Christ in the lowly humiliation of His Manhood, but the produce of the land speaks of Christ in His exaltation, raised and glorified, so that this is exalting food. The believer is privileged today to eat both of these, for as regards his circumstances he is in the wilderness, but as regards his spiritual position he is in the heavenlies.
THE SUPREME COMMANDER
There has been an orderly progression in the preparations made for warfare, now only one matter remains, and that of greatest importance. As Joshua was by Jericho, evidently contemplating an attack, he saw a Man standing before him holding a drawn sword. Joshua was no weakling: he went to the Man and asked Him on which side He was (v.13).
The answer was "No." He neither came to support Joshua nor to support the enemy, but for a far higher purpose. He came as Commander of the army of the Lord. This could be no other than the Lord Himself, and Joshua fully gives Him this place. He worshiped Him and asked what He had to tell Joshua (v.14). The only instruction he was given was to take the sandal off his foot because the place he stood was holy ground. Thus, Joshua would be reminded of Moses and the burning bush (Ex.3:5).
Joshua surely would never forget this. God intended to impress on him that he was only a secondary leader and all Israel must realize their total dependence on the grace and power of the eternal God.
Joshua and Israel having been fully prepared by God, their conquest of Canaan begins. Jericho, with its thick walls, was securely shut up (v.1), prepared for a long siege; but certainly not prepared for what happened! Joshua did not depend on his military wisdom, but received orders from God, who tells him He has given Jericho and its king and mighty men into Joshua's hand (v.2).
He is given what appears to be strange instructions, that Israel's army should march around the city once every day for six days, with seven priests sounding rams' horns before the ark (vs.3-4). On the seventh day, however, they were told to march around the city seven times, followed by a long blast with the ram's horn and a trumpet blast. Then all the people who had been quiet before, were to shout loudly. God would cause the wall of the city to fall down flat, so that the men of Israel could go straight before them into the city (v.5).
Joshua followed these instructions precisely, as verses 6-16 show. There were armed men before the priests and the ark, and a rear guard followed the ark. The sight of this must have been astonishing to the people of Jericho who would be watching from the walls. The quiet, orderly marching, with only the rams' horns sounding is a picture of the proper testimony of believers today before a world that is destined for judgment. The orderly walk of believers with Christ (the ark) as their Center is a witness of moral character before the world, while the blowing of the rams' horns is the announced witness, that is, the proclaiming of the gospel of the grace of God.
Each day for six days this continued (v.14), but on the seventh day they arose early and marched around the city seven times (v.15). Does this not indicate that as judgment nears the testimony of God is intensified, as indeed in our day the gospel is being declared more urgently than ever before, while the world continues in a state of rebellion and refusal of the message of grace.
On the seventh day, at the end of the seventh time around the city, the priests blew with the trumpets and Joshua told the people to shout, since the Lord had given them the city. But he said more. The city must be destroyed, but Rahab the harlot and all who were in her house would be spared (v.17). Also, the people were warned not to take anything from Jericho, for the city and everything in it was under the curse of God. Yet all the silver and gold, vessels of bronze and iron were to be consecrated to the Lord and brought into the treasury of the Lord (vs.18-19). These were things that could resist the fire of God's judgment, things that fire would only purify rather than destroy, and are all symbolical of spiritual things that, rightly used, may be of glory to God and blessing to the whole congregation. For instance, gold speaks of the glory of God, but in the hands of mere professors of religion, those who are deceived by the seductions of Satan, the glory of God is badly abused, as we see in Revelation 18:12 where the false church is spoken of as making merchandise of gold, or in other words, making merchandise of that which is only rightly used for God's glory. This is true of silver also, which speaks of redemption, but which men's religions misuse also, making the redemption that is in Christ Jesus only a teaching by which the church might make monetary gain. Bronze (or copper) is mentioned also in the same verse. Copper pictures the holiness of God, and people use the word even in giving titles to religious dignitaries, but again it becomes only merchandise in their profitable religion! How important to have these things rescued from unholy hands and given back to God!
When the people added their shout to the sounding of the trumpets, the wall of the city fell down flat. This evidently does not mean that the walls toppled over, for they were wide enough to contain homes, and the soldiers went in straight before them. However, recent reports of archaeological excavations reveal that the evidence is that the walls sank into the ground. This would account for the expression "fell down flat," and of course the Israelites would then be able to go straight before them into the city, with no having to circumvent rubble. How astounding a sight for Israel to witness! The one exception would be that area of the wall in which Rahab and her relatives were gathered.
Every living thing in the city was totally destroyed, men, women, children and animals, except for those people in Rahab's house (v.21). This may seem appalling to us today, but we must remember that the inhabitants of the land (including Jericho) had been completely given up to demon worship. At least the little children, who were not yet responsible for this wickedness, would be taken to heaven, which would be far better than remaining on earth to follow the ways of their parents.
At Joshua's instructions, the young men who had been spies went to Rahab's house and brought her out, together with her father, mother, brothers and all she bad, to the vicinity of the camp of Israel, though not into the camp (vs.22-23).
The city itself then was burned, though, as God had ordered, the silver and gold and vessels of bronze and iron were put into the treasury of the Lord (v.24).
It is noted in verse 26 that Rahab, her father's house and all her possessions were spared, and she dwelt in Israel still at the time this record was written. This exception, being mentioned a few times, is intended to impress us with the reality of the grace of God in His willingness to save souls, even though God had decreed the destruction of the city and the entire country. Just so, today God has decreed the judgment of the world (Acts 17:31), yet in grace He is saving souls out of the world when in faith they receive the Lord Jesus as Savior.
Jericho having been destroyed, Joshua pronounced a curse against the man who would rebuild the city. The curse involved the death of his firstborn at the time the foundation was laid and the death of his youngest when the gates of the city were set up (v.26). This was fulfilled in the days of Ahab, the most wicked of Israel's kings. Hiel, a man of Bethel, built Jericho again, and his oldest son Abiram died when the foundation was laid; then at the setting up of its gates his youngest son Segub died (1 Ki.16:33-34).
The Lord's conquest of Jericho by Joshua and Israel's armies resulted in Joshua's fame being spread throughout the country. Because Joshua had a character of faith and subjection to the word of God, he was a fit leader for Israel.
Jericho means "fragrant" and speaks of the character of the world in its condition of self satisfaction and natural attraction. It is the world in its fundamental principle of refusal of God's rights. For this reason it was devoted to complete destruction, with no right whatever to be revived again. The believer is to be once and for all settled in his purpose to "love not the world" and have no confidence in its attractions.
DEFEATED BY AI
Though Joshua and Israel as such were unaware of it, there was sin in the camp that affected all of Israel, for we are told that "the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things" (v.1). Only one man had done this, but God held the nation responsible because the man, Achan, was part of Israel. He had taken some things that were under the curse and God was therefore angry with Israel (v.1).
Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai to spy out that city (v.2). Notice, they had not returned to Gilgal after the defeat of Jericho. If they had taken time to go back to Gilgal, the place of self-judgment, the Lord would likely have revealed to them that sin was in the camp. But we do not even read that Joshua enquired of God as to attacking Ai. He had before depended fully on the Lord in reference to Jericho, but we too easily fall into the snare of being flushed with a great victory and thinking therefore that we can easily win a lesser victory. Are we any more capable of a small thing than a large thing? No! If God is not in it, the small as well as the large will defeat us.
The advice of the spies to Joshua was to send only about 3000 men against Ai because it was small (v.3). Joshua took this advice from men without asking God's counsel, and the result was that the men of Ai came out and soundly defeated Israel, killing 36 men.
Jericho is a picture of the world in principle. All believers by faith in Christ Jesus "overcome the world" (1 Jn.5:4-5), as Israel overcame Jericho. But Ai pictures the world in its details. these things may seem small to us, and we can easily be defeated by them. Young men are told, "Do not love the world or the things in the world" (1 Jn.2:14-15). They had overcome the wicked one, yet in spite of this there was danger that they might be defeated by attraction to the world or its things. Through faith they had become strong, but if faith becomes virtually inactive in our lives, we may be overcome by even small worldly attractions.
When Israel was defeated the hearts of the people melted in apprehension (v.5). This was a shock they had not expected. Joshua tore his clothes and prostrated himself before the Lord, together with the elders of the people, putting dust on their heads (v6). These things speak of repentance which they saw was evidently needed, though they were still not aware of the sin in the camp that had occasioned their defeat.
At least Joshua pled with the Lord then, though he did not think of asking what was the reason for this defeat: rather he asked why God had even brought Israel across the Jordan just to deliver them into the hand of their enemies. He thought it would have been better to remain on the other side of Jordan. Did he not stop to consider that the mighty way in which God had already reduced Jericho's opposition to nothing?
"O Lord," he says, "What shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies?" (v.8). He felt that the news of this would imbue the Canaanites with boldness and strength to surround Israel and destroy them. Then he adds, "then what will You do for Your great name?" (v.9). He did not realize that in Israel's painful defeat God was rightly caring for the honor of His great name.
ACHAN'S SIN EXPOSED AND JUDGED
The Lord answered Joshua's prayer by telling him to get up and act. For He says, "Israel has sinned" (v.11). Though only one man was guilty and his guilt was concealed, yet all Israel was held accountable. If they had consulted God before attacking Ai, He would have told them about this, but our lack of communion with God will too easily leave us ignorant of Satan's attacks. This is a serious lesson for the Church of God today.
God told Joshua that Israel had taken some of those things that were under the curse and put it among their own goods. Therefore they could not stand before their enemies, and could not stand until they had destroyed the evil from their midst, because God would not be with them (v.12).
Joshua must sanctify the people, that is, separate them from the normal pursuits of life, to concentrate on this one matter of importance, that there was an accursed thing in their midst and it must be taken away. We might wonder why this could not be taken care of without involving the whole congregation, but all must learn publicly that God is a God of true holiness. This public dealing was thus intended to impress the seriousness of such sin upon every individual, to guard against any further infractions. The probe and its results would take no little time. The prosecution of the war must be held up, to emphasize that God governs among His own.
Certainly the Lord could have exposed Achan as the offender immediately, but in His great wisdom He made all the tribes come as though all were under suspicion (v.14). This would call for serious heart searching among all, so that there would be no mere resentment aroused against Achan, but that all would be humbled by the evil. The process would gradually narrow down to the individual whom the Lord had already judged must be burned with fire (v.15).
Early in the morning the examination began. Of the twelve tribes, the tribe of Judah was singled out by the Lord (v.16), and from this the family of the Zarhites was taken. Then the family came, man by man, and Zabdi was taken. Zabdi's household was then brought man by man, and the finger of accusation was pointed at Achan (vs.17-18). Achan had been given plenty of time to confess his guilt, but evidently he was hoping right to the end that he might not be exposed. How foolish is the unbelief of greed! If people will not confess their guilt before God while He waits patiently, how humiliating will be the exposure of their guilt at the Great White Throne! (Rev.20:11-12).
Joshua shows no hostility toward Achan, but pleads with him to at least now give glory to the Lord God of Israel by confessing candidly what he has done (v.19). What else could Achan do now but confess his guilt? He admitted he had sinned against the Lord God of Israel and had Stolen three things from the spoil of Jericho, a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, and had buried them under his tent floor (v.21). The silver would be about eight pounds in weight, the gold two pounds, the value of which would be great. The Babylonian garment represents idolatrous luxury which should have been destroyed, while the silver and gold ought to have been put in the treasury of the Lord.
What did Achan think he could do with these things? But greed is often foolish and unthinking. He has to admit he coveted them and took them. He is like many today who grasp after all they can get when they can put it to no practical use.
The stolen goods being recovered from Achan's tent, he and the stolen property, his sons and his daughters, his oxen, donkeys, sheep and his tent were all taken to the Valley of Achor (meaning "trouble"). Then Joshua solemnly pronounced sentence against Achan (v.25), he reaping trouble because of the trouble he sowed. All Israel was called upon to stone them to death and burn them. The fact that his sons and daughters were included in this judgment indicates that they knew of his crime and did not report it, for in Israel no children were to be put to death for their father's sins (Deut.24:16). Achan's animals also were destroyed, however. As to the silver and gold, we are not told whether this was brought into the treasury of the Lord. But of course it would not be destroyed by burning A great heap of stones was raised over the remains, a testimony to God's holiness in judgment. Only when this stern judgment of the evil took place was God's anger abated. The place was called "the Valley of Achor" (V.26).
Joshua - CHAPTER 8
AI TOTALLY DESTROYED
Now the Lord gives explicit instructions to Joshua as to attacking Ai. How different these were to the plans Joshua used at first! God tells Joshua not to be afraid, but to take with him all the men of war, not only 3000 men (v.1). It was God who would deliver them into the hand of Joshua, so that there was no doubt of their gaining the victory. They must do with Ai as they had done with Jericho, but in this case the people could take the spoil for themselves (v.2).
God had given the total victory over Jericho, which symbolizes the world as a system of evil. But as to Ai, though God was behind all that Israel did, yet they were to fight in various ways, for Ai speaks of the details of worldliness that hinder the spiritual progress of believers. In their overcoming these things, small as they seem to be, believers will gain spiritually. Thus Israel in this case gained through the spoils.
First they were told to set an ambush behind the city. Joshua therefore chose 30,000 valiant warriors, telling them to lie in wait behind the city, not far from it, and being ready for conflict (v.4). They would wait for Joshua and those with him to show themselves before the city, with the confidence that Ai's men would come out to attack them as before. Israel would then act as though they were beaten and retreat with the men of Ai in pursuit. This would give the ambush time to enter the city and set it on fire (vs.5-8). The men therefore remained in ambush that night (v.9).
Early the next morning Joshua mustered his army and brought them to the north side of Ai, where they encamped (v.11). He also set about 5,000 men in ambush on the west side of the city. Thus there were 30,000 lying in wait behind the city and 5,000 on the west side and a large army with Joshua at the front of the city.
Then Joshua and his army marched into the valley in view of the city gates (v.13). The king of Ai immediately led his army out of the gates to attack Israel as he did before, being ignorant of the ambushes that had been laid (v.14). Joshua and his army retreated then, fleeing from Ai. All the army of Ai joined in pursuit of Israel, leaving the city without defense (vs.15-17). They were not like the men of Jericho who kept their city tightly closed against Israel, but felt themselves strong in taking the offensive, no doubt encouraged by the fact that they had done so before and won.
When Ai had been left defenseless, the Lord told Joshua to stretch out his spear toward Ai (v.18). This was the signal for which the ambush was waiting, and they rushed into the city and set it on fire before the army of Ai knew what was happening (v.19). When-they saw their city on fire, they found themselves caught in the middle, for those they pursued turned back and struck down the men of Ai (v.21). Those who had torched the city came out and attacked from behind, thus in a short time destroying all the army of Ai (v.22).
The king of Ai was taken alive and when the army had been destroyed, the armies of Israel returned into the city and finished the destruction, so that 12,000 were killed that day, the entire population of Ai (v.25). The livestock and other spoil was taken by the Israelites, however, as God had instructed (v.27). The king of Ai was hanged, then his body buried by a great heap of stones at the entrance of the city.
In all of this history we are reminded of some distinct ways in which scripture instructs us to deal with evil:
(1) Entrenched against evil -- those pitched on the north side of Ai (v.11).
Compare Ephesians 6:13.
(2) Watching against evil -- those who laid in ambush (v.12).
Compare 1 Corinthians 16:13.
(3) Appearing against evil -- Joshua's group going into the midst of the valley (v.13).
Compare Ephesians 5: 11.
(4) Fleeing from evil -- Joshua's retreat (v.15).
Compare 2 Timothy 2:22.
(5) Putting evil to death -- the destruction of the army of Ai (v.26).
Compare Colossians 3:5.
THE ALTAR IN MOUNT EBAL
It is refreshing to see how quickly Joshua responded to God's command in Deuteronomy 27:2-8 in building an altar on Mount Ebal, an altar of whole stones. It is reported that this altar has recently been unearthed by archaeologists, who have found it to be of very large dimensions. On this altar the Israelites offered both burnt offerings and peace offerings (v.31). Besides this, Joshua wrote a copy of the law of Moses (v.32). God did not have Israel rush immediately into further conquests, but rather sought to have them soberly consider their relationship to Him, to give Him the worship due His name and be found in a spirit of dependence on Him and obedience to His law,
More time was then taken for Israel to be gathered together, with half the congregation in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal. The ark was in the center, attended by the priests, but all Israel was required to be present. These two mountains were in close proximity, and Joshua was obeying God's command in Deuteronomy 27:11-13. Curses were connected with Mount Ebal and blessings with Mount Gerizim. Here Joshua read all the words of the law, the blessings and the cursings (v.34). Moses had rehearsed this with Israel before, but this was needed as a constant reminder to them.
No one was exempt from hearing this discourse. Women, little children and strangers living among them must be included too (v.35).
DECEIVED BY THE GIBEONITES
The calm deliberation with which the Lord was acting gave time for the forces of the enemy to be marshaled against Israel. Six nations, the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perezites, Hivites and Jebusites, on hearing of Israel's invasion across the Jordan, gathered together to join forces in opposition to this alarming threat (vs.1-2). Human military strategy would have urged Israel to attack quickly, so as to prevent any united resistance against them, but God is wiser than men. He allowed time for the nations to unite against His people, so that He might show His superior power by defeating them together in a very short time.
But Satan knows well how to work by deceit as well as by outward opposition. The inhabitants of Gibeon evidently discerned that they would not be able to defeat Israel, so they sent men posing as ambassadors from a far country, having old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals, wearing old garments, and with dry and moldy food (vs.3-4).
Coming to Joshua they flatly lied to him in saying they came from a far country, asking him to make a covenant with them (v.6). The men of Israel suspected that this might be deception (v.7), but the Gibeonites told Joshua, "We are your servants." Notice that they did not speak like Rahab did, acknowledging the God of Israel as the true God, and when Joshua pressed them as to who they were and where they came from, they did not answer this specifically, but said again they were from a very far country. Then they brought in God's name, saying they had heard of His fame and of His victories in Egypt and over Sihon and Og (vs.9-10). Actually, the reports had only awakened fear in their hearts, not faith, as in Rahab's case.
What the Gibeonites said sounded plausible, and it may be that their reference to Israel's God had a deciding effect with Joshua, but he and Israel made the fatal mistake of receiving them on their own word without asking counsel from the Lord (v.14). They made and confirmed a covenant with them by an oath (v.15). If we think Israel was not to blame since they were deceived, then let us think again: if they had taken the matter to God, would they have been deceived? No! If we are in proper communion with the Lord, we shall not be deceived, for the Lord is not deceived.
Three days following this Israel found that these people lived close to them (v.16), and as Israel journeyed they came to their four cities, But these cities had to be spared because of the oath Israel had made to them. This led the congregation to complain against the rulers, for this was contrary to what God had commanded (v.18)
Could they rescind the covenant now on the basis of having been deceived? Absolutely not! Why? Because, though others may act falsely, this never gives a Christian the right to act falsely in return. They had given their word. God would not allow them to go back on it in spite of the problems that might follow. Later on King Saul, "in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah" killed some of the Gibeonites (2 Sam.21:1-2), and God sent a famine on Israel in the days of David because of this. Saul thus chose a foolish way of trying to correct the failure of his forefathers. What a lesson to teach us the importance of bowing to the governmental results of our failures, rather then to proudly think we can correct them!
However, there must be some discipline meted out because of the deception. The Gibeonites had said they were Israel's servants, therefore the rulers of Israel said, "let them be woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation" (v.21). They must be kept in total subservience to Israel. Joshua then gave them this message, telling them that, in spite of their being spared, they were under a curse for their deception and would never be freed from slavery (vs.22-23).
They answered Joshua that they knew that God had told Moses to destroy the people of the land and this deception was the only means they could think of to be preserved from death, for they were filled with fear (v.24). If it had been faith that brought them, they would have found the God of Israel full of compassion, as He was with Rahab, but God knew that these nations had given themselves up to idolatry and unbelief.
However, they did not by any means resist Joshua's words and declared themselves ready to submit to whatever Joshua thought right. This is similar to what will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation. There will be those from foreign nations who will hear of Christ in His great conquests. Psalm 18:43-45 tells us, "A people I have not known shall serve Me. As soon as they hear of Me they obey Me; the foreigners submit to Me. The foreigners fade away, and come frightened from their hideouts." These people will not be serving the Lord Jesus because of love for Him, but because of fear, and they will be kept under strict control. Joshua knew this had to be done as regards the Gibeonites.
ISRAEL DEFEATS FIVE KINGS
The news of Gibeon's treaty with Israel greatly alarmed other nations in the land, for Gibeon was considered prominent and important, so that the king of Jerusalem took the lead in enlisting four other kings to attack Gibeon (vs.4:1-4).
These enemies have vital spiritual significance. Jerusalem means "the foundation of peace," and is the center God had purposed for Israel to place His name there. But it was held by Adoni-zedec (v.3) which means "lord of righteousness," just as satanic deceit puts on a show of righteousness to deceive people. "Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers transform themselves into ministers of righteousness" (2 Cor.11:14-15). Satan is determined, if he can, to prevent our laying hold of the truth of the Center of gathering, that is, the understanding that the Lord Jesus Himself is the one Center around whom His people are to gather, not a denominational name, not to a certain physical location or building, but to Him personally, as He says, "Where two or three are gathered together in, My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Mt.18:20). How good it is if faith can displace Satan's deception, just as Israel displaced Adoni-zedec and took possession of Jerusalem.
Hebron means "communion" or " fellowship" and its king, Hoham, means "corrupt confusion of sound," for the world's fellowship has no calm, quiet peace such as does true communion with God, for the world thinks of fellowship as every voice raised in confused discord. Peter sat with soldiers at the world's fire and their so-called fellowship proved to be only confusion to him (Lk.22:55-62). True communion is seen in Ephesians 3:17-19. Faith may take this city and deliver it from the confusion that Satan has introduced.
The third city armed against Gibeon was Jarmuth, meaning "elevation," and its king, Piram is defined as "the wild donkey." False religion likes to elevate itself, but is it becoming that a wild donkey be put in a place of elevation? The wild donkey pictures man in his rebellious, independent state, yet Piram had control of the elevated place. Such pride must be taken down. Israel must displace Piram by means of humbling themselves, depending on God to exalt them in due time, as He does for every true believer, giving them a heavenly inheritance in Christ (Eph.2:6).
The fourth city, Lachish, means "walk as men," and the meaning of its king, Japhia, is "shining -- resplendent." Others will judge a person by the way he walks and one's walk is an important matter. But again, false religion puts on a show that is dazzling so as to deceive. The Lord Jesus did not do this, but He walked as a true Man amongst men, with no ostentation, no pretense, but in perfect moral dignity. Thus, believers are to displace a mere fleshly display by a walk of humble consistency, a walk of faith. "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind" (Eph.4:17). In fact, Ephesians, the epistle of heavenly places, puts much emphasis on walk, for if we truly appreciate our position in heavenly places, this will have a very real effect on our earthly walk.
The last of these five cities is Eglon, meaning "round, as a wheel." Its king was Debir, meaning "speaker" or "an oracle." Eglon pictures God's government, which grinds slowly but surely, telling us that God will always have the last word, for Christ is "the Amen." People may feel they will get their own way, and exert every effort in this direction, but God's wheel turns in a complete circle to bring back the past and face people with all they hoped was forgotten. Eglon therefore pictures the field of prophecy. How badly this has been corrupted by false "speakers" claiming to be God's "oracle." A sad example of this is seen in 1 Kings 22:6,where Ahab's prophets told Ahab that the Lord would deliver Ramoth Gilead into Ahab's hand, -- a totally false prophecy. Today, in the professing church there are many false interpretations of the prophecies of scripture, and Debir, "the speaker" should be fully displaced by the faith of God's people in faithfully declaring the truth of God's Word as to the future. Well might Ephesians 6:14 tell us, "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness."
When these five kings united together in proceeding to attack Gibeon, Gibeon sent a message to Joshua urging him to come to deliver them from these kings (v.8). It was certainly God who was behind all this, for in this way Joshua could accomplish the defeat of five kings at once. Let us observe that they ascended from Gilgal, the place of self-judgment (v.7). and the Lord gave His word to Joshua that He had delivered the enemies into Israel's hand, so that none could stand before them (v.8).
They marched all night from Gilgal and suddenly, unexpectedly, attacked the five kings and their armies. The enemy fled in confusion, for it was the Lord who fought for Israel and great numbers were slaughtered.
UNUSUAL SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION
It was not left only to Israel to kill the enemy The Lord sent a storm of large hailstones on them, so that more were killed by the hail than by Israel's army (v.11). Revelation 16:21 speaks of great hail, each stone being about a talent in weight, which is 129 pounds! Hailstones have been reported to weigh as much as 75 pounds when they fell in Arabia some years ago. But also, God answered the word of Joshua to him by an amazing miracle. It was the Lord who moved Joshua to speak as he did in verse 12 in the sight of all Israel, "Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon." This was done, so that the sun remained in the sky for about a whole day more than is normal. What an experience for Israel's enemies, who would be expecting darkness to hide them from further devastation. But the slaughter continued all that time, the power of the enemy being completely destroyed.
It is reported that a scientist at Yale University told another that he had discovered by scientific calculations that the earth had lost 24 hours in its course at some time in history. The other scientist knew his Bible and told the first to begin reading the Bible and he - would eventually find the answer to this. He did so and came to Joshua 10. But he returned to the second man and told him that now he knew the Bible was not true because he had calculated that at the time of Joshua the earth had lost only 23 hours and 20 minutes. He thought Joshua had known something of this and had resorted to deception in reporting his experience. However, he was instructed to notice that at this time in Joshua the sun and moon hasted not to go down for about a whole day. Told to resume his reading, he finally came to 2 Kings 20:9-11 and was astonished to find that Isaiah had given a sign to Hezekiah that the shadow on the sundial would return 10 degrees. This accounted for the 40 minutes that was short of a whole day. Thus the Word of God was proven true and the scientist was converted to Christ.
After the great victory over the five kings, Joshua returned with Israel to Gilgal. How important it is that we do the same thing when the Lord has enabled us to gain a victory. We deeply need the place of self-judgment then, to keep us from the pride that likes to glory in our accomplishments.
THE FIVE KINGS EXECUTED
The kings of the five cities were evidently not in the forefront of the battle, but directing operations from a distance. They escaped together to a cave where they expected to be hidden (v.16). But they had been observed and the news was given to Joshua, who ordered his men to roll large stones to the mouth of the cave, with men kept on guard (vs.17-18).
These few were left while Israel continued to pursue their enemies and destroy them before they could enter their cities. Thus, the extra long day served to enable a sweeping victory, with only few escaping to seek refuge in fortified cities (v.20). Five of these cities were left without any king, however. The camp of Israel is now seen to be at Makkedah, farther west and south than Gibeon. Israel's army returned there, where the five kings were imprisoned in the cave.
When the stones were rolled away the kings were still there. Though they were alive they were not able to release themselves. In contrast to this, the Lord Jesus had died and His body put in a cave with a stone rolled over its mouth and soldiers guarding it. But when the stone was rolled away, His body was not there!
When the five kings were brought out Joshua told the captains of Israel's army to put their feet on the necks of these kings (v.24). For the stiff-necked, proud kings of the world must have their stubborn pride reduced to humiliation before the God of heaven and earth. Joshua told his men therefore not to fear, but be strong and courageous, for the Lord would in the same manner reduce all the pride of their enemies before them (v.25). The kings were then put to death and hanged on five trees until evening. Let us remember these were leaders in satanic worship, and when the day of God's judgment comes there will be no sparing those who have sold themselves to Satan. The sun finally went down on that long day, and the bodies were taken from the trees and returned to the cave with large stones again covering it permanently (v.27).
Verse 28 now adds that "on that day" (the long day of which we have read) Joshua took the city of Makkedah, completely destroying its king and its people. The meaning of Makkedah is "bowing the head." The five proud kings had been compelled to bow their heads there, but from Israel's viewpoint, when she took the city, is this not significant of learning the truth of willingly bowing our heads to the great God of creation?
FURTHER CONQUESTS OF CITIES
These ensuing victories of Joshua evidently began the day following the long day. The second city that he conquers is Libnah, meaning "whiteness." False religion boasts in the claim of purity, but it is all on the surface, like whitewashed graves (Mt.23:27), with the corruption of death underneath. But true purity involves separation from evil, no contamination being allowed. Thus, in picture, we conquer the city of Libnah by learning well the truth of sanctification to God and therefore from all this contrary to Him. Libnah's inhabitants were also destroyed (v.30). Yet, let us observe that none of these cities were destroyed, as Jericho was, but captured.
From Libnah they passed to Lachish, which name we have noted as meaning "walk as men." Its army had already been defeated, now the inhabitants are killed and Israel captures the city (v.32). A true walk as men who honor God can only be the possession of those who are born again.
Another king, Horam, of Gezer, comes to the help of Lachish (v.33), Gezer means "isolated" or "cut off," and Horam "tumid or "swollen." Horam therefore speaks of the swollen pride that glories in its independence (isolation). The city itself is not spoken of as being taken by Joshua, for God is not seeking a place of isolation for any of His saints, but Joshua did destroy Horam and his people. However, we read in 1 Kings 9:16 that Pharaoh king of Egypt had taken Gezer, burned it with fire, had killed the Canaanites who lived in the city, then gave, the city to his daughter, Solomon's wife. Thus, it appears to be one of the cities that were not taken over by Israel, but indicates that there were still cases of independent isolationism in Israel after they had subdued their enemies. The same has been sadly true of the Church of God in her history.
Next, Joshua fought against Eglon (v.34) and took the city, destroying its inhabitants. We have seen that Eglon, meaning "round, as a wheel," signifies God's government, involving the field of prophecy. Israel therefore took possession of this, for prophecy can only be rightly possessed, understood and valued by faith in the Lord Jesus. Faith therefore overcomes the enmity of Debir, the king of Eglon and possesses his city.
Hebron was next attacked and taken by Israel (vs.36-37) on the day following the extended day. Evidently there were satelite cities connected with Hebron, and all the inhabitants were killed. Hebron means "communion" and only those who are of faith have any right to possess the place of true communion or fellowship. Satan expends every effort to keep us from this, but faith in the Son of God overcomes.
From Hebron Joshua and his army went to Debir, the name of this city being the same as the king of Eglon (v.3), meaning "speaker" or "oracle." This city too was captured and its king and inhabitants killed (vs.38-39). Those whom Satan uses effectively as speakers in his cause must be totally expelled and replaced by speakers for God. How good it is if we know how to silence the claims of false doctrine by means of the true doctrine of Christ. The establishing of Christianity in the world in the book of Acts answers to these great victories of Joshua, who is a type of "Christ in you."
In this great campaign of chapter 10 Joshua completely conquered all the Southland, the mountain country and the lowland, from Kadesh Barnea as far as Gaza and all the country of Goshen (vs.40-41). All of this he took at one time, but nothing could account for this except that the Lord God fought for Israel. This is likely the most amazing and decisive military engagement that history has ever seen.
At the end of this, which took so short a time, Joshua and all Israel returned to the camp at Gilgal (v.43). Military wisdom certainly did not decide this for him, but God's leading. The backbone of all Canaan's resistance had been broken, but instead of exploiting his advantage, Joshua sought the presence of God in the place of self -judgment. Here he would find renewed strength for future warfare.
CONQUEST OF NORTHERN ENEMIES
Israel's returning for the time being to Gilgal gave time for the nations in the north to mobilize. In this God's wisdom is evident, for He brought these nations together so that Israel could defeat them enmasse, and not have to spend weeks or months in going from one city to another to wage war. In defeating their armies first, the taking of their cities would be simple.
In the tremendous gathering of this northern confederacy only two kings are mentioned by name, Jabin king of Hazor and Jobab king of Madon. Jabin means "discerning" and Hazor means "inclosed." Jabin therefore represents "the wisdom of this world" (1 Cor.1:20) which has its own inclosed stronghold, keeping out anything that does not conform to its proud claims. But God knows how to render the wisdom of this world "foolish." This attack by "philosophy and empty deceit" (Col.2:8) can appear most formidable so that many are deceived by it, but the energy of faith in the living God can fully overcome it.
Jobab, meaning "shouter" was king of Madon which means, "contention." Philosophy needs its advertising agent who, with a loud voice and confident tone can contend against every effort to expose and refute its claims. Tercullus the orator was such a man (Acts 24:1-8), a man of contention. Also, Paul tells Titus, "There are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped" (Titus 1:10-11).
Such leaders are well able to influence large numbers to unite together in resisting the work of God. Indeed, they will point to their superior numbers as being proof that God is really on their side. This is one of Satan's most effective arguments. The numbers gathered from all that northern area were "as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude" (v.4), with large numbers of horses and chariots. God allowed them to be well prepared, so that from a military point of view they had the advantage, but in this way they would learn the lesson that God is greater than all the wisdom and organization and power of all His enemies put together, and Israel would learn too that God's power alone was to be the deciding factor
The Lord told Joshua, "Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about-this --, time I will deliver all of them stain before Israel" (v 6). Their horses were to be hamstrung and their chariots burned. Why were these not taken as spoil? Psalm 20:7 gives a most satisfactory answer, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."
Joshua and his armies therefore, without any maneuvering of any kind, directly attacked this great company (v.7). The Lord gave them the victory immediately, so that the enemy fled in total disarray, in contrast to their previous united front. Israel pursued them, killing them with such slaughter as to leave none remaining. Would Israel then not be thankful they had returned to Gilgal to be in the presence of God before rushing to engage in battle?
After defeating the northern armies, Joshua returned and attacked the city of Hazor, which was the head of all the other kingdoms that had mustered themselves against Israel. The king Jabin was killed and all the inhabitants of the city, and also the city was burned (vs.10-11). The city was not simply captured by Israel, for it means "enclosure," implying independent sectarianism in the land, and Israel was not to have any of this.
The other cities and their kings Joshua took, killing the kings and the people of the cities, but did not burn those cities. Hazor alone was burned, the other cities possessed by Israel, for their spiritual significance was no doubt valuable when no longer perverted by the enemies of God (vs.12-13). Therefore, Israel took the livestock and other spoil for themselves (v.14).
Thus we are told that Joshua fulfilled the commandments of the Lord given to him by Moses (v.15). He was a leader of remarkable faith and God-given ability. These two great victories over the south and the north of the land gave Israel undisputed domination over all the land, though they had not as yet destroyed all their enemies, as chapter 13:1-6 shows. Does this not tell us also that, though we may have in general taken possession of our heavenly inheritance, yet there are many details of that inheritance that we have failed to apprehend or enjoy?
SUMMARY OF JOSHUA'S CONQUESTS
All the land from south to north, whether mountainous or plain, Joshua conquered, from Mount Halak in the south to the Valley of Lebanon in the north, below Mount Hermon (vs.16-17). To accomplish this, it was necessary to continue warfare for a long time (v.1,8). No other city besides Gibeon made peace with Israel: all were taken in battle (v.19).
The Lord had hardened the hearts of their enemies so that they should fight against Israel. This is judicial hardening which is the result Of their having for a long time hardened themselves against God. They had come to the point of no return, stubbornly refusing their only avenue of hope, a genuine straightforward repentance. Thus they were devoted to total destruction (v.20).
In verse 21 the Anakim are specifically mentioned. These were giants (Num.13:33), and were found in the area of Hebron and Debir. We have before seen that Hebron (meaning "communion") and Debir ("the speaker") were taken by Joshua (ch.10:36-39), but there were Anakim still in the area, determined to have some possession at least of Hebron and Debir, for Satan wants to encroach on these things - that are rightly the possession of believers. The enemy would like to claim a place of communion with God in order to "speak" his evil doctrine as though it was God's message. King Ahab employed such deceivers to prophecy to him and Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing a prophet of the Lord (1 Ki.22:3-7).
At this time in Joshua's history, however, the Anakim were cut off from the land of the children of Israel and left only in the Philistine cities, Gaza, Gath and Ashdod (vs.21-22). Philistines are "wallowers," typical of mere formal religion, which really wallows. as in mud, not free of the fleshly entanglements that keep people from knowing the liberty of the Spirit of God in Christ. The Philistines remained in their area, but a constant source of trouble for Israel. Their successors today, the Palestinians, continue in the same role.
Joshua, having subdued the whole land, gave it as an inheritance to Israel, dividing it according to the needs of each tribe. Then finally the land rested from war. This rest was in general complete, though it did not mean that Israel would have no more conflict in possessing all that actually belonged to them.
KINGS CONQUERED BY MOSES
A list is given now of those kings defeated by Israel before they crossed the Jordan, while Moses was still living. We have read of them in Deuteronomy, and shall say not more about them, though the Spirit of God has always real reason for repeating matters of history, whether or not we understand those reasons. The lands conquered at that time were given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.
KINGS CONQUERED BY JOSHUA
The list of these kings whom Joshua captured in the country west of Jordan is intended to teach us spiritual lessons of importance, and if we find them difficult to interpret, this indicates that we have not taken possession as we might of some truths that God has given us title to. The only clue to understanding these is in the meaning of the names of the cities. Some of the kings are before mentioned by name, and these are for our help, but only the cities are spoken of by name here. There may be some things here that we find enjoyable for ourselves too, while hesitant to interpret them for others lest we should not be accurate. However, there are others that seem more simple of interpretation, and we should be encouraged, not to be dogmatic, but to seek what may be truly beneficial spiritually.
In listing the kings overcome by Joshua, the mountain country, lowlands and wilderness are mentioned in verse 8. The mountain country reminds - us of the heights of blessing to which the saints of God have been raised "in heavenly places in Christ," high above the common level. It is wonderful to take possession of this. On the other hand, the lowlands are also a needed possession, for if we have a high position, we need this balanced by a lowly, humble walk, as willing servants. Have we really taken possession of this aspect of the truth of God? But wilderness areas are important too, for here we learn that circumstances in the world are so barren and distressing as to be an acute testing of our faith. If we have the faith to triumph over the rigors of wilderness experience, then we have virtually taken possession of the wilderness!
Six nations in which these cities were included are also mentioned in verse 8. Hittites are "the children of fear," and remind us of those "who through fear, of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Heb.2:15). Conquering the fear of death is part of true Christian character. The meaning of Amorites is "sayers." Sadly, such Amorite character was later found among the leaders of Israel, of whom the Lord Jesus said, "they say, and do not" (Mt.23:2-3). But let every believer fully judge the evil of a glib tongue without proper action to back it up. Canaanites means "traffickers," speaking of those who make merchandise of the things of God, such as we see when the Lord cast out of the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers (Jn.2:14-16). We too must judge fully the evil of using the precious truth of Christ as a means of material gain.
Perizzites are "squatters," those who take over property that is not theirs, so that they picture those who want to pass as Christians though they have not been converted to God. Believers are called upon to expose this evil and expel it. This property rightly belongs to faith, therefore let us by faith take it from those to whom it does not belong.
Hivites picture a more subtle form of opposition to the truth. The name means "livers," emphasizing how a person lives. They will tell us that the importantthing is not the doctrine that one believes, but the way helives. It is true that Christianity calls for a godly, upright life, but if it is not based upon the truth of the teachings of scripture, though that life may seem commendable to many people, yet it is merely a facade that covers up the evil within. "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:14-15). If Christ is not the Object of people's living, then their living is empty show. Believers must conquer this evil by a genuine confession of Christ and a life consistent with this.
Finally, the Jebusites ("treaders down") picture a more bold, open defiance of the truth of Christianity. While the Hivites were more like the Pharisees, putting on a show of righteous living, the Jebusites resemble the Sadducees, who wanted religious recognition, but trampled on some of the most vital truths of the Word of God. They rejected the truth of resurrection and denied the existence of angels or spirits (Acts 23:8). Thus, they are characterized by the negative principle of what they are against. Such sects as "Jehovah's Witnesses" are in this class. They tread down what is of vital value. The faith of a believer again triumphs over this enemy of God.
In the six nations were included the 31 cities listed in verses 9-24, all of which Joshua conquered. While we may not be able to decipher the special evil involved in each case, believers will no doubt have to face specific details connected with the six major evils we have noted, and learn to judge them.
LAND REMAINING TO BE CONQUERED (vv. 1-7)
Joshua became "old and advanced in years" (v. 1). In fact, he was not a young man when he led Israel across the Jordan, at least in his sixties. If, as we rightly consider, he is a type of "Christ in you," his aging would indicate that the spiritual energy of God's people, though it may be fresh and vigorous at first, nearly always begins to wane with time. We see this in Israel and we see it in the Church, and sadly in many individual believers.
Yet there was "very much land to be possessed." How much of the truth of scripture do we really possess? There have been godly, faithful men who have led the way in giving us possession of much scriptural knowledge that might otherwise have remained of no value to us. They have certainly not exhausted scripture, but have passed off the scene. Where is the energy of faith now to gain possession of land that has not been possessed? Should not every believer be stirred in heart to apply himself to the diligent study of the Word of God, not only to gain knowledge, but to thereby know the Lord better, to be filled with all the fullness of God?
The first unpossessed land mentioned is "all the territory of the Philistines" (v. 2). The Philistines had originally come from Egypt by way of the north, not having to cross the Red Sea, so they are a picture of those who have come into Christian profession without facing the truth of the death of Christ for them, -- not redeemed, but religious. Their name means "wallowers," for they wallow in the mire of empty forms and ceremonies, and have always been a thorn in Israel's side. In the history of the Church too this same evil has continually opposed the simplicity of the truth of the gospel of grace, and only faith can overcome it. In David's day the Philistines were largely subdued, though never expelled from the land.
Geshurites are mentioned along with the Philistines. Their name means "proud beholders," speaking of those who take the place merely of spectators, well able to criticize, proud of their ability to tell what should be done, but not involving themselves in the work of the Lord at all. We all know people of this kind, but let us not be like them: rather let us fully judge this kind of evil, triumphing over it by the faith of spiritual energy.
Verse 3describes the territories of these nations in more detail, including the five major cities of the Philistines, and adding "the Avites." Gaza, a city of the Philistines, means "strong," for ceremonial religion seeks the greatest power in the world and boasts of the strength of its numbers. Such strength means nothing to those who walk by faith. Let us never be intimidated by it. The harlot city Babylon may be so strong as to reign over the kings of the earth (Rev. 17:18), but "her plagues will come in one day -- death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her" (Rev. 18:8). We may now defeat such evil by trusting in the strength of the Lord God.
Ashdod means "the spoiler," for such formal religion as we see in the Philistines becomes a spoiling, desolating thing to its victims, leaving no positive blessing for them. This negative, harmful character of religious pretense is again only to be overcome by the positive energy of faith in the living God.
Askelon has a strange meaning for a city, "the fire of infamy." But false religion often strongly attacks those who will not submit to it by putting them in the worst light possible. Through the middle ages many were branded as heretics by the professing "Church," who were godly, devoted believers. But we must not be intimidated by this kind of enmity, rather let us overcome it by faith.
Gath means "the winepress." The winepress speaks of the wrath of God's judgment (Rev. 14:19-20), and again in the middle ages it was often seen that the professing "Church" claimed to be the executor of the judgment of God against those she called "heretics." Only faith can capture Gaza, so that the winepress will be truly in the hand of God alone, not in the hands of perverters.
Ekron means "rooting out." Various false religions have tried hard to root out all who do not submit to them, but this is a dreadful evil when that religion is clothed with a Christian name. They want complete domination, but again Ekron should be captured for the Lord. For it will be right for Him in His own time to fulfill His own words, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted shall be uprooted" (Mt. 15:13). Thus the energy of faith will give Him His rights.
The Philistines were in the south, then northwest were the Canaanites (v. 4)and various peoples connected with them. Canaanites means "traffickers," so that this northern area seems to symbolize the evil principle of using Christianity for monetary gain. Israel was responsible to subdue such enemies, just as the Lord Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple (Jn.2:14-16), but though the Canaanites were in general conquered, yet there remained pockets of resistance. Joshua was told by the Lord to divide the land between Israel's tribes (vv. 6-7), then each tribe had the work remaining of subduing and banishing every enemy in their territory, just as today all believers are to fight against and subdue the spiritual evils that threaten their enjoyment of our spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Eph. 6:10-18).
LAND DIVIDED BETWEEN THE 2 & 1/2 TRIBES (vv. 8-14)
While half the tribe of Manasseh was included in the inheritance of property west of Jordan, the other half tribe is now seen connected with Reuben and Gad on the east of Jordan (v. 8). They had asked for this before and Moses had granted it to them (Num. 32:1-22). This land was divided between these 21/2 tribes. "Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites (v. 13). They still had the evil principle of the "proud beholder" (the meaning of Geshur) to contend with, just as believers today must contend with the pride that can observe and proudly criticize without being involved in the testimony of the Lord. This is an evil not easily banished! Yet, let us have serious exercise not to allow any such attitude to surface in our own personal experience.
Verse 14 reminds us that the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance for themselves, for they were scattered among the tribes to serve the Lord where they were placed, and were dependent on God's providing for them by the sacrifices and offerings of the people. They were therefore simply to look to God for their support, as is true for any servant of the Lord today who engages his full time in the Lord's work.
THE LAND GIVEN TO REUBEN (vv. 15-23)
The land of Reuben on the south adjoined Moab. On the west of it was the Dead Sea and a little further north the River Jordan. The north border was the south border of Gad. Heshbon is the farthest north city mentioned in Reuben's territory. The east border is not so well defined, perhaps because of desert toward the east, but Reuben inherited all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites (v. 21).
It is noted here, because Reuben is so close to Moab, that the children of Israel killed Balaam the soothsayer, who had been hired by Balak to curse Israel, then had counseled Balak to have his people mingle with Israel to corrupt them (Num. 31:16).
GAD'S INHERITANCE (vv. 24-28)
The land given to Gad was north of that of Reuben, including the territory of Jazer (evidently just north of Heshbon) and continuing north to include Succoth which was near the Jordan River. Jordan was again the west border of Gad, and the east border is once more apparently indistinct. In this territory and the meaning of the names of cities there is without doubt spiritual instruction to be found if we were diligent and discerning enough to find it.
THE EASTERN PORTION FOR MANASSEH (vv. 29-33)
Manasseh's inheritance (for its half tribe) was north of Gad's, including the territory taken from Og king of Bashan, its west border being also the Jordan River, though the other half tribe of Manasseh was given its portion on the west side of the river, opposite the half tribe on the east. Again we are reminded that it was Moses who had given this inheritance to Manasseh (v. 32), and again we are told that the Levites were not given territory of their own, for the God of Israel was their inheritance (v. 33).
WEST OF JORDAN: THE LAND DIVIDED BY LOT (vv. 1-5)
The land west of the Jordan River was divided by Joshua and Eleazar the priest. It was not their discretion that decided this, however, for as to what possessions each tribe was to have, this was decided by casting lots (v.2). Proverbs 16:33 tells us, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." Each tribe was left responsible to dispossess any enemies that might remain in their particular inheritance.
Because the Levites were not given territory of their own, except cities in the other tribal property for them to live in, the tribe of Joseph was separated into two tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh (vv. 3-4), so that the land was divided to accommodate 12 tribes.
HEBRON GIVEN TO CALEB (vv. 8-15)
True energy of faith is seen in Caleb, who leads a group from Judah to claim the inheritance he had been promised by Moses. He reminded Joshua of Moses' promise to both him and Joshua because of their standing firmly for the Lord when the other ten spies had brought back a report to put Israel in fear of entering the land (Num. 14:6-9).
At that time Caleb says he was forty years of age (v. 7), and when sent to spy out the land he brought back a report that fully honored the Lord. When others discouraged the people, he wholly followed the Lord (vv. 7-8). Because of his faithfulness, Moses had sworn that the land Caleb's feet trod upon would be his inheritance. Therefore, his faith, depending on the Word of God, claimed what rightly belonged to him (v. 9). This is deeply instructive for believers today. What God has declared to be ours in scripture, such as we see in the book of Ephesians, we should surely claim with true boldness of faith.
While all the men of Israel who had been over twenty when Caleb was forty, had died before the entry into Canaan (except Joshua), Caleb had continued now till he was 85 (v. 10), and told Joshua that he was as strong at 85 as he had been at 40 to go to war (v. 11). Thus, he and Joshua would be fully 20years older than any of the other men of Israel, yet still full of courage. Caleb's name means "a dog," and he was evidently a Gentile proselyte in Israel (Gentiles being regarded as dogs by Jews), but dogs are noted for their unwavering devotion to one master, and Caleb's devotion to the God of Israel was a salutary example for all Israel.
Therefore, Caleb claimed "this mountain," where the Anakim (giants) lived and who had great and fortified cities (v. 12). He did not look for the easiest place to possess, but the reverse. It made no difference to him how strong the giants were: God was stronger than they. This was enough for him. How good it would be if every believer today had the same firm decision of faith as did Caleb!
In answer to the faith of Caleb, Joshua blessed him and gave him Hebron as an inheritance (v. 13). Hebron means "communion," so that typically Caleb is blessed with the special sweetness of communion with the One to whom he was devoted. It will be so with us too if we do not shrink from the conflict of possessing those possessions that are obtained by genuine faith. If we "wholly follow the Lord" we shall know in vital experience the truth of the words of the Lord Jesus, "If any one loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him" (Jn. 14:23).
Verse 15tells us that Hebron had formerly been called Kirjath Arba (city of Arba), and Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. Thus Caleb had no hesitation in dispossessing the greatest of the giants. When he did this, "the land had rest from war."
Joshua - CHAPTER 15
THE BORDERS OF JUDAH
Judah occupied the largest territory of the tribes, though later we read that Simeon's possession was within Judah's territory (ch.19:1). The boundary on the south of Judah is first considered. This was next to the land of Edom, beginning at the Dear Sea and reaching to the Mediterranean Sea (vs.2a). Edom (the same name as Adam, pictures man in the flesh, and God's land is to be decidedly separated from this. Fleshly ambition is the world's principle of action, but Judah (meaning "praise") is to be the opposite of this, giving God, not self, the first place.
We return in verse 5 to consider the east border, which was the Dead Sea, the border continuing north to the mouth of the River Jordan where it emptied into the Dead Sea. Though the east is the direction of the sun rising, reminding us of the coming of the Lord, which will mean great blessing for believers, yet when John the Baptist speaks of the Lord's coming, he tells us, "His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." Thus the Dead Sea (really a large lake) speaks of the lake of fire. The Jordan, the river of death, runs into the Dead Sea, where no life is found. How many there are who, with no repentance or faith, drift with the current of death into the awesome death of eternal punishment (Mt.25:46) -- the second death of Revelation 20:14! Judah's border separates her from the Dead Sea, but the reminder was always there of the judgment that is escaped only by faith in the living God.
The northern border began at the mouth of the Jordan (v.5). and the description of this is much more detailed than we have found with the other borders. This border adjoins Israelite territory, as the other borders do not. Thus there is a careful marking off of the territory of Judah ("praise") from the other tribes. Ephraim's border is discussed after Judah, but it does no adjoin Judah, and later Benjamin is seen to have its territory between Judah and Ephraim (ch.18:11), and Dan also, farther west than Benjamin (ch.19:40-46). But the many details given as to Judah's border surely indicate that praise must be kept distinct from all other virtuous aspects of the Christian's life, and there are many occasions for praise also. Again, the meanings of the names would certainly furnish us with good spiritual food if we interpret them aright. If the reader desires more help in such interpretation, the Numerical Bible by F.W.Grant is highly recommended.
Judah's northern border then began at the north end of the Dead Sea and went generally westward till ending at "the Great Sea," that is, the Mediterranean, which seacoast served as the western border of Judah (v.12). The great Sea is typical of the Gentile nations (Rev.17:15), 50 often in a state of upheaval and unrest, seeking to encroach upon the land, but held in check by the power of God, who has said, "This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!" (Job 38:11), Thus, Judah's western border tells us that, though the world may threaten to swamp the testimony of the people of God, yet God is greater than the world, and will preserve His people.
THE FAITH OF CALEB AGAIN EMPHASIZED
Chapter 14:6-11 has reported the boldness of the faith of Caleb in claiming what had been promised him. Now he is again given by God a place of prominence, for God delights to honor that faith that honors Him. God gives a similar honor to Joshua (ch.19:49-51). Thus the faithfulness of Caleb and Joshua (in contrast to the other ten spies) was well rewarded. Caleb was given a share in the land of Judah (v.13), which seems to indicate that he did not have this right by natural birth, so that he must have been a Gentile brought into Israel as a proselyte.
Verse 14 tells us that in conquering Kirjath Arba (or Hebron) Caleb drove our Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. Giants meant no more to Caleb than did weak men, for God was with him. He therefore took possession of Hebron, typically possessing the communion with God to which every believer is entitled, but which many do not enjoy.
Having taken Hebron, Caleb went up to Kirjath Sepher ("city of the book"), but its name changed to Debir, which means "oracle." For if we are once enjoying communion with God, we shall then be concerned about speaking for Him. However, Caleb gives opportunity to others to capture this city, promising his daughter to the man who took Debir (vs.15-16). Surely this tells us that if we are in communion with God, we shall be glad to encourage others in God's service. Nor does Caleb speak in vain, for his nephew, Othniel, responded to the challenge. Othniel means "lion of God," speaking of the courage to act for God, so that it appears he did not delay to accomplish this victory over Debir (v.17). He did not only gain Debir, the oracle, picturing the honor of speaking for God, but also the daughter of Caleb, Achsah, meaning "anklet," whose faith is very soon after emphasized beautifully, so that she must have been an excellent wife for Othniel. Achsah persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field, just as believers should desire a workable inheritance. She had the exercise of asking before receiving, for God often waits for us to have concern enough to ask. Caleb responded positively to this request, giving her a land in the south. But the south was a warm, dry land, good land but requiring moisture if it was to yield produce. Therefore Achsah asked for springs of water also, and Caleb gave her both the upper and lower springs. If we have the simple concern to ask of God in faith, not doubting, we shall find Him indeed a liberal giver, as James 1:5-6 assures us. The upper springs speak of the refreshment of enjoying our inheritance in heavenly places, and the lower springs furnish us with grace to walk through the world in devoted obedience to God. How good if we are well balanced enough that we do not neglect either.
THE CITIES OF JUDAH
The list of all the cities of Judah is intended to hold true spiritual instruction, as F.W.Grant shows in his Numerical Bible in considering this chapter, for both the numbers and the meaning of the names furnish the clues for understanding its spiritual significance. But we pass over this except to mention that Judah could not drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem (v.63). This was the chief city, the city God had purposed to place His name, but it has been over all the centuries claimed by both the Jews and their enemies. David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Sam.5:6-7), so that it is called "the City of David" and the kings of Judah reigned there for many years, but since the time of the kings it has suffered through constant contention from Israel's enemies, and will do so until the Lord Jesus finally subdues the whole world under His authority. Then indeed Jerusalem, called Zion, will be "the city of our God, in His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King" (Ps.48:1-2).
The border of Ephraim did not adjoin Judah, for Benjamin and Dan came between them; but Ephraim's borders are discussed after Judah, for fruitfulness (of which Ephraim speaks) is a proper result of praise, the meaning of Judah. The borders, both on the south and the north, stretched from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, the Jordan being the east border and the sea the west. Again, the names of the points along the border are significant, though perhaps these should be left for personal study.
However, Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer (v.10). Gezer means "a portion as cut off." speaking spiritually of a sectarian principle that too often persists among the people of God, and which we find hard to expel. Also, they were Canaanites, meaning "traffickers," for a sectarian attitude is often closely allied with a desire for material gain, which is foreign to true Christianity.
THE WESTERN HALF TRIBE OF MANASSEH
Manasseh's territory was immediately north of Ephraim, spreading from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. Manasseh means "forgetting reminding us of Paul's words in Philippians 3:13, "forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Thus Manasseh and Ephraim go together. Manasseh was born first, but teaches us that we are to forget what we were in mere fleshly advantage, for that which is first is not spiritual, but natural. Thus, Ephraim was given the first place, which speaks of the positive bearing of fruit. For the positive must always take the precedence over the negative. Yet Manasseh has his place also, for we must all learn to put behind us all that is merely to the credit of the flesh.
One man is mentioned by name in verse 1, Machir, the firstborn of Manasseh, "because he was a man of war." Manasseh had died long before Israel's deliverance from Egypt, but Machir succeeded to the place of the firstborn. He was given Gilead and Bashan, which were on the east side of Jordan.
Other children of Manasseh are listed in verse 2 as being given territory in the bounds of the tribe. But more than that, five daughters of one man, Zelophehad, were given the inheritance that would have been the possession of their father if he had not died before. The daughters had been promised this by Moses (Num.27:1-11), and now in boldness of faith they claim the inheritance (vs.3-4). Certainly also, believing women are as fully entitled to a spiritual inheritance in heavenly places as are men. This blessing for them is wonderful, though of course it does not do away with God's governmental order as to the relative place and responsibilities of the man and the woman in the assembly or in public testimony. In this there are distinctions that must always be maintained.
Verse 5 speak of ten shares taken by Manasseh on the west side of Jordan, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan on the east. Thus, verse 1 refers to the east side of Jordan and verses 2-4 the west side. The daughters of Zelophehad received their inheritance among the sons mentioned in verse 2, and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.
Manasseh had a relatively large possession, its border on the south adjoining Ephraim, the Mediterranean Sea being its west border and the river Jordan the east, though Issachar was on its north-east border, and Asher on the north (v.10).
A number of towns are mentioned in verse 11 which were in the territory given to Manasseh and Issachar, but Manasseh could not drive out the Canaanites who lived there. When Manasseh was strong enough, they put these Canaanites under forced labor, but did not drive them out (vs.12-13). Sadly, the territory of the church today is still compromised by the presence of people and principles that are not consistent with the pure truth of God.
COMPLAINTS RIGHTLY ANSWERED
Though the territory allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh was large, yet they complained to Joshua that they had so little to inherit, saying that they were a great people, the Lord having blessed them. Did Ephraim think that, since Joshua was of Ephraim he would give them special recognition?
But Joshua was a man of God: he had been guided by God in the allotment of territory, and was not partial to his own tribe. His answer was wise and to the point, "If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you" (v.6). This was land to which they had title, but they had not taken possession of it. They were much like many believers today, who would like to have what others had fought for, but are afraid of the conflict necessary to possess what they are entitled to.
They objected to Joshua that they need more than the mountain country, and that the valley areas were possessed by Canaanites who had chariots of iron (v.16). Joshua, courageous man of war as he was, considered this a feeble argument. He reminded them a second time of their own words, they were a great people, and if so, had great power. They were able to cut down the trees of the mountains and were also able to defeat and drive out the Canaanites, though they had chariots of iron (vs.17-18). Caleb had not let the formidable opposition of giants defeat him (ch.14:6-12), and faith will never be defeated by the appearance of great power on the part of the enemies of God. Thus Joshua silenced the arguments of Ephraim and Manasseh. He had the last word. How could they deny its appropriateness?
SURVEYING AND DIVIDING THE REST OF THE LAND
Though Jerusalem was God's purposed center for Israel, they had not been able to take this city from the Jebusites, so that they found Shiloh in the territory of Ephraim convenient for the setting up of the tabernacle (v.1). The land was generally subdued before Israel but there were still seven tribes that had not been apportioned their inheritance (v.2).
Joshua remonstrates with Israel in verse 3 as to their neglect to actually possess what God had given them (v.3). Well might believers today take to heart such an admonishment. We have not possessed what God has given us title to. Joshua told Israel therefore to pick out three men from each tribe who could pass through the remaining territory, survey it and part it into seven portions (vs.4-6). Then Joshua would cast lots before the Lord as to which portion each of the tribes would receive. The men would be thus put in a position of wanting to be fully impartial as to the dividing of the land.
The men whom Joshua was sending to survey the land were reminded (v.7) that the Levites had no stated inheritance and the 2˝ tribes had theirs on the east side of Jordan. With Joshua's backing therefore the men left on the survey. How long it took we are not told, but when completed they returned to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh. Joshua did as he said, casting lots as to which of the seven tribes was to inherit which portion (v.10).
THE TERRITORY OF BENJAMIN
Benjamin means "son of my right hand," so that the tribe emphasizes the glory of the Lord Jesus as reigning at the right hand of God. Appropriately therefore, Benjamin included Jerusalem (v.28), which was on the border of Benjamin and Judah (ch.15:63). Authority (in Benjamin) and praise (Judah) are beautifully united therefore in this capital city which was God's center, though it was a long time before Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites (in David's day).
Benjamin's borders are described in verses 1-20, and its cities named in verses 21-28. Its territory was comparatively small, lying between Judah and Ephraim, bounded by the River Jordan on the east and the tribe of Dan on the west.
SIMEON WITHIN JUDAH'S BOUNDARIES
Because Judah's inheritance was so large, Simeon was given a possession within Judah's borders. Simeon means "hearkening," for the one whose habit is to listen to God will certainly praise Him, thus having title to an inheritance within Judah ("praise"). No separating borders are mentioned for Simeon, and God has definite reason for this, but a number of cities with their surrounding villages are listed as belonging to Simeon. Certainly all of these also have spiritual significance which will yield blessing for those who are concerned and enabled to search it out.
Zebulon means "dwelling." So that in Israel this implied a permanent abode in the presence of God, a good reminder for us today, for "he who abides (or dwells) in love abides in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16). The boundaries of Zebulon are not as clearly defined as natural thought would expect, but this itself indicates a spiritual lesson needful for us. Dwelling with God does not need definition, but spiritual enjoyment and exercise. God's presence is certainly a place of greatest joy for the believer, but also of serious concern that He should be honored in every detail of our conduct.
The area of Zebulon's possession was north of Manasseh. Twelve cities and their villages are noted as belonging to Zebulon (v.15), a picture of his representing all 12 tribes in the virtuous character of dwelling with God.
Issachar means "there is reward." Believers at the judgment seat of Christ will receive reward for what they have done for the Lord (2 Cor.5:10), so that this tribe appears to emphasize what outward works should be, not simply our inward character. Again, its borders are not clearly defined, as though indicating we should not limit our good works, which are to be exercised toward all mankind, specially those of the household of faith (Gal.6:10). The east border, however, was the Jordan River (v.22), a reminder that death will be the end of any opportunity to earn reward for good work done.
THE INHERITANCE OF ASHER
Asher means "happy," which surely implies that in our present inheritance "in heavenly places in Christ" we have every reason for rejoicing, so that this is another lovely feature of Christian character as illustrated by the tribes of Israel. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, Rejoice." Not that joy is to be an object, for it is "in the Lord," thus plainly making the Lord the Object, but joy will be the spontaneous result of contemplating Him.
Naphtali means "my wrestlings," so that this adds the lesson of overcoming in conflict. In this matter too Naphtali represents all Israel, for in one very real respect every true believer is an overcomer. "Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 Jn.5:5). The victory that overcomes the world is not our works, but our faith (1 Jn.5:4). All Israel were overcomers in their overcoming in general the enemies of the land, though in practice they were not by any means always overcomers. Thus believers are all overcomers in principle, and ought to be also in daily practice, for we should be concerned about details as well as overcoming in general.
Naphtali was north of Zebulon and east of Asher (v.34), so that its territory was in the far north of the land, as was Asher, including a number of fortified cities.
Dan's name means "judge." This reminds us that "the saints will judge the world" and will judge even "angels" (1 Cor.6:2-3). We shall do this as identified with Christ when He takes His great authority. Paul uses this to press upon the Corinthians their responsibility of judging grievances in their assembly rather than allowing such matters to be taken before the courts of the world. Yet also, if we are to ever judge others, we must first learn to judge ourselves, as the Lord Jesus insists in Matthew 7:5: "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Let us consider seriously that, before we shall have part with the Lord Jesus in judging the world, we shall first be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor.5:10). Only in having rightly judged ourselves will we be in any proper condition to judge the world.
The inheritance of Dan was near to the sea-coast, west of Ephraim and Benjamin, and north of Judah. But later, in Judges 18:1 we learn that Dan had not possessed what he was entitled to, so that, after sending spies to the north of the land, who found the Sidonians living in peace without fortifications or armaments, six hundred men from Dan journeyed there and attacked the inhabitants, killing them and burning their city Laish (Judg.18:27-29), then rebuilding the city for themselves, calling it Dan. Thus the tribe of Dan is thereafter referred to as at the extreme north of the land. Laish is the same as Leshem, noted in verse 47, this verse referring to the conquest of Judges 18. Though the area described in verses 41-46 was Dan's proper inheritance, it seems that they retained little possession of this.
Though Dan's place among the tribes as referring to judgment is an honourable one, yet his after history was contrary to the truth of his position. Dan was the first to introduce idolatry publicly in their tribe (Judg.18:30-31). How solemnly this teaches us that, when we are privileged to be in the place of judging for God, we may so assume such authority for ourselves that it amounts to idolatry!
All the tribes having been given their territory, now we read of that which was given to Joshua. His name is the same as Jesus (in Greek), meaning "Jehovah is Savior," so that Joshua is a type of Christ as the Leader and Completer of faith. "If others have their particular possessions, how appropriate that Christ should have Timnath Serah, which means "an abundant portion." This surely causes believing hearts to rejoice, that the One who is supremely worthy receives that which delights His great heart of love. It is His voice we hear in Psalm 16:6, "The lines have fallen unto Me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance." In Ephesians 1:18 Paul expresses in prayer his desire that believers might "know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" etc. Those who are redeemed by His blood and their hearts purified by faith, form His inheritance, which is so valuable and glorious to Him.
SIX CITIES OF REFUGE
God had before directed that He would appoint six cities of refuge in Israel (Num.35:9-15), and now that Israel is settled in the land these cities are to be designated. They were to be places of safety for anyone who had accidentally or unintentionally killed another person (v.3). For a near relative of the victim might desire to avenge this wrong by killing the guilty party, but if the person fled to a city of refuge he would be safe from the avenger.
In the gate of the city (the place of judgment) he could declare his case before the elders, and if it was established that he was not guilty of murder, he was to be welcomed into the city, where the avenger of blood was not permitted to touch him (v.4). Numbers 35:16-19 makes it clear, however, that he must be given no refuge in that city if his case was one of actual murder, and the avenger of blood could put him to death.
Above all, the person killed reminds us of the Lord Jesus. Was His death a premeditated case of deliberate murder? On the part of some, yes, for religious leaders were absolutely hateful toward Him and plotted beforehand to kill Him (Lk.6:11; Jn.11:53). But there were those who did not understand the horror of this rejection of the Son of God, as we learn from the Lord's words from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Lk.23:34). Peter also, in speaking to the common people of Israel in Acts 3:17 tells them, "Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers." So there were even some rulers who had opportunity to virtually flee to a city of refuge. Many responded to Peter's words and found refuge by receiving the Lord Jesus as Savior. All mankind is responsible for the death of the Lord Jesus, and all who receive Him now will find that His death is actually the means of their salvation. But those who maintain a hateful attitude of refusing Him will find not refuge, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.
The man-slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest, when he was allowed to return to his own city and house (v.6). It seems that this may refer to the ending of the Lord's work in Heaven as High Priest, and Israel's restoration to blessing at the end of the Tribulation period, when Israel as a nation will be publicly exonerated from their guilt of centuries in having rejected and crucified their Messiah.
The six cities chosen are listed below:
(West of Jordan) (East of Jordan) 1. Kadesh meaning "Sanctuary 6. Golan, meaning "immigration Speaking of Safety Inferring our Prospect 2. Shechem, meaning "Shoulder" 5. Ramoh, meaning "high places" Indicating Certainty Believers' heavenly position 3. Hebron (meaning "communion") 4. Bezer, meaning "precious" Emphasizing Enjoyment The Person of Christ.
All the meanings of these cities are wonderfully consistent with the perfect refuge that is provided for confessed sinners saved through the blood of Jesus. The sanctuary (Kadesh) is the presence of God, a place of perfect safety. Then Shechem (shoulder) reminds us of the Lord Jesus carrying the sheep that was lost on His shoulders, the place of strength, of certainty, or security. Hebron then (communion) gives the added sweetness of fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 Jn.1:3).
When these three truths are experienced, this brings us to Bezer, "precious," to realize the living joy of seeing all beauty and all blessing in the person of Christ Himself, -- not only to appreciate what He gives, but to appreciate Him. Then from Bezer in the south we go northward to Ramah, "high places," to learn that not only is Christ precious to God, but "in Christ" believers too are so precious as to be accepted in the Beloved and "blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places" in Him (Eph.1:3-6). Lastly, Golan, "immigration" reminds us that we are to very soon immigrate to "a better country, that is, a heavenly country" (Heb.11:16), for though our position now is heavenly, we still Wait to be actually taken to heaven at the coming of the Lord. Wonderful prospect!
CITIES GIVEN TO THE LEVITES
Since the Levites were not given a tribal inheritance as were the other tribes, it was necessary that they should have cities among all the tribes Their representatives therefore came to Eleazar and Joshua (v.1) to remind them that the Lord had promised through Moses to give them such cities, both for themselves and for their livestock (v.2).
These cities were then given by lot to the Levites, beginning with the families of the Kohathites. Aaron was from that family, and his family (the priests) were given thirteen cities by lot, from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. This was appropriate, for Jerusalem (God's center)was on the borders of Judah and Benjamin, and Simeon was included in Judah. Thus the priests would be near to God's sanctuary, to do service there. The priests were (typically) the worshipers, so that in the service of God they came first. The rest of the Kohathites were given ten cities by lot in Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh. Kohath means "obedient," and stands for the objective ministry of the Word of God that is itself fully subject to that Word. Their service was connected with those things that speak directly of Christ, caring for the furnishings of the tabernacle (Num.4:4-15), so that Kohath's ministry would involve the blessedness of the position that all believers have 'in Christ." We may be sure that all the cities allotted to them had some spiritual significance consistent with the character of their work.
The children of Gershon were given thirteen cities by lot from Issachar, Asher and Naphtali and the half tribe of Manasseh east of Jordan (v.6). Gershom means "a stranger there," speaking of that service for God that does not settle down in the world, but serves God without selfish, material motives. Gershom's service was connected with the curtains and coverings of the tabernacle, the hangings for the door and for the court. Thus the spiritual significance of Gershom's service is that of encouraging a godly walk through a world in which we are strangers, a walk that honors God, though the world does not understand.
The children of Merari received twelve cities from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulon, with surrounding lands (vs.7-8). The service of Merari involved caring for the boards of the tabernacle, its bars, pillars and sockets, pegs and cords with all their furnishings (Num.4:29-32). The boards speak of believers joined together by bars and sockets, and the pillars, of believers holding up hangings, etc. All of this indicates not only the walk of believers personally through the world, but of their united testimony as joined together by the power of the Spirit of God.
GOD'S PROMISE FULFILLED
With all the tribes being given their place in the land, it is now emphasized that what God had promised He had fulfilled to Israel, so that they took possession of the land, dwelling in it (v.43). He gave them rest all around, so that not a man of all their enemies was able to resist their taking the land (v.44). God had done all that He had promised.
This is true for believers today. The book of Acts gives us the history of God's establishing the Church of God in separation from the world, though in it, giving us a heavenly inheritance as clearly taught in the epistles. God on His part had done everything for our blessing. But just as Israel failed in their response to God's faithfulness, so has the Church failed to manifest a true response to God's grace in acting upon the truth of what they have been given and what we are "in Christ."
Yet it is good for us to get back to the sublime pronouncement, "Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass" (v.45). Thank God we may rest on His faithfulness, though all else may fail.
THE RETURN OF THE 2 ˝ TRIBES
To their credit, the warriors from Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had continued faithfully with the other tribes in conflict with the enemy until all the power of the enemy was subdued. Joshua now speaks to them, commending them for their obedience to Moses and to him (v.2) in not leaving their brethren during these many days of warfare. Therefore he tells them that they are free to return to their homes on the east side of Jordan, the possession that God had granted them before the crossing of the Jordan (v.4).
However, he urgently admonished them to take careful heed to keep the commandment and the law that Moses had communicated to them, "to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep the commandments, to hold fast to them, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul" (v.5). Joshua was particularly concerned about these tribes because they had chosen to take the territory east of Jordan, thus having a boundary that naturally separated them from the rest of Israel. In their returning, however, they do so with the blessing of Joshua (v.6).
Joshua approved of their taking with them much in the way of riches obtained as spoil from the enemies they had defeated (v.8). Similarly, if believers today, through conflict with spiritual enemies, are enriched with the knowledge of the truth of God, they have plenty to share with their loved ones and neighbors.
A GREAT ALTAR BY JORDAN
Returning to their land, these men of the two and one half tribes immediately erect a very large altar by the banks of the Jordan River (v.10). It is understandable that when the other tribes heard of this altar they were alarmed, for God's altar in Israel was to be in the place that He would choose. At that time it was at Shiloh because Israel did not have possession of Jerusalem, which was to be God's center. But God recognized only one altar on which Israel was to offer their sacrifices, for the altar typically speaks of Christ.
Israel gathered together at Shiloh prepared to go to war against the 2 ˝ tribes (vs.11-12). However, they wisely waited to engage in warfare until they had sent a delegation headed by Phinehas the priest and composed also of a ruler from each of the ten tribes west of Jordan (vs.13-14). They would afterwards be thankful they did this, for they found the situation was not what it appeared to be. We too must remember that a consultation is better than a confrontation
These men speak as representing "the whole congregation of the Lord" (v.16), letting the 2 ˝ tribes know that they considered it treachery against the Lord that these tribes had erected an altar for themselves, for it appeared to be rebellion against God's authority. They of course reasoned that a separate altar could not be God's altar, and therefore that these tribes were turning away from following the Lord. They remember "the iniquity of Peor" (v.17) and the plague God had sent on Israel because of the mixture of Israelites with Moab and their idols (Num. 25;9, and they want no repetition of such judgment. For if only these tribes turned away, then the Lord would be angry with the whole congregation of Israel (v.18). This is a solemn lesson for the Church of God too, and in some respects more deeply serious when there is departure on the part of some. For the Church is "one body", and "if one member suffers all the members suffer with it" (1 Cor.12:26). We may not see this result very plainly, but this is because of our sad lack of spiritual perception in realizing just how badly the testimony in the Church is affected by the disobedience of only a small part. But God is in perfect control even of this, and we shall in the glory see just how profoundly the Church has been affected by the actions of every member of the body.
Phinehas and the delegation with him thought that possibly the 2 ˝ tribes considered their land unclean, and still under the domination of an idolatrous god, since they placed their great altar there, and told them if so they should come to the west side of Jordan. They give one example of God's anger against all Israel on account of the sin of only one man, Achan (v.20). The sin of Peor involved the guilt of many, but Achan's sin was only his, yet it affected all Israel.
However, those of the 2 ˝ tribes had a different explanation of this than the rest of Israel had expected. They made it clear that they give every honor to "the Lord God of gods," and plead the fact of God's knowledge that understood what they were doing (vs.21-22). They say that, if this altar was raised in rebellion or treachery, then they would accept the judgment of not being saved that day. If they had built the altar to turn from following the Lord, or if in order to offer sacrifices on it, then let the Lord require this in judgment (v.23).
They explain therefore the real reason for the altar. They were apprehensive that in the future the children of Israel west of Jordan might question their right to any relationship with Israel because the Jordan came between them (vs.24-25). Therefore they decided to build the altar, not to offer sacrifices, but as a standing witness to their identification with the rest of Israel (vs.26-27). It was not an independent altar, but a replica of Israel's altar, but firmly declared as to be not for offering sacrifices (vs.28-29), but as a witness.
The wiser course in this case would have been to previously advise Israel of their intention to build such an altar, thus avoiding any misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the explanation was fully satisfactory to Phinehas and the other delegates of Israel, and Phinehas voiced their thankful approval of this, perceiving that this altar was really a confirmation of the unity of all Israel rather than a tragic declaration of division (vs.30-31).
When news of this was brought back to Israel, it was not only a relief, but a pleasure for them to realize that the 2 ˝ tribes were concerned to maintain as close a unity with the other tribes as possible (vs.32-33). Then it is added that the altar was appropriately named "Witness."
AN APPEAL ON THE BASIS OF GOD'S FAITHFULNESS
Many years had passed now that Joshua calls for all Israel, elders, heads, judges and officers, and tells them he is old and advanced in age (vs.1-2). Shortly after coming out of Egypt Joshua was said to be "a young man" (Ex.33:11). If therefore he might have been about 30 when leaving Egypt, then when entering Canaan he would be about 70. So that his address to Israel now would be about 40 years after entering Canaan, since he died at 110 years.
But his spiritual energy and exercise are beautiful to witness in this appeal to Israel. His concern for them did not diminish because he was leaving them, for he was a true man of God. He seeks to draw their hearts in reality into the Lord's presence, reminding them that they themselves had seen all that the Lord had done in defeating all the nations who opposed Israel (v 3).
Joshua tells Israel he had divided to them by lot, not only the property in the land, but "these nations that remain to be an inheritance for your tribes" (v.4). Thus the nations had not been totally expelled, though they had been subdued. There remained therefore work for Israel to do in siding with God to have these inhabitants expelled, so that Israel might fully possess the land (v 5).
Joshua almost verbally repeats to Israel what God had told him personally many years before in chapter 1:7 "Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all this is written in the Book of the Law of Moses" (v.6). How often we need to be reminded to have courage to act on all that is revealed to us in God's Word! For us today this is not the Law of Moses, but the more wonderful truths of the New Testament.
The Word of God would be their one real protection against mingling with the unbelieving inhabitants of the land (v.7), and they are warned not to even make mention of their false gods, not in any way to acknowledge them, but to continue to hold fast to the Lord God (v 8). For the Lord had already proven His faithfulness by driving out before them great and strong nations, and none had been able to stand before Israel. Let them remember this. Also, they may still depend on His grace and strength to enable one man to chase a thousand, certainly an amazing accomplishment! (v.10). This was however conditional upon their taking careful heed to love the Lord God (v.11). If not, and they declined morally to mix with the nations, intermarrying etc., the tables would be completely turned: instead of driving out the nations, they would find them to be snares and traps, scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes, so that Israel would be expelled from the land (vs.12-13).
Israel would no longer have Joshua to depend on, for as he tells them, he was going the way of all the earth, into death. However, he strongly reminded them that they knew in their hearts and souls that not one thing had failed of all that the Lord God had promised them: all had been fulfilled (v.14).
Though he has been exhorting them, his words become more prophetic in verses 15 and 16. He says that just as God had fulfilled His word in blessing to them, so He would in the future bring on them harmful things culminating in their destruction from the land which in grace He had given them (v.15). He does not say, "If you have transgressed," but "when you have transgressed the covenant of the Lord your God which He commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed down to them." Nor was it long after Joshua's death that this disintegration began, though God was most patient with Israel, seeking all through the history of the Judges and of the Kings to draw Israel back from their idolatry, until eventually their stubbornness became so determined that the nation was carried away from their land. Even then, God worked to restore Judah from the bondage of Babylon (2 Chron.36:22-23), bringing a remnant back, but that remnant became guilty of the enormous wickedness of crucifying the Lord of glory, and now for nearly 2000 years Israel has borne the solemn results of their rebellion.
JOSHUA'S SUMMARY OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY
For the second time, as Joshua neared the end of his life, he called Israel together, primarily the elders, heads, judges and officers (v.1), but including "all the people" (v.2). He then faithfully summarized Israel's history, from her fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until the then present time. There is a striking similarity between this and the first part of Stephen's address in Acts 7.
Abraham had dwelt with his father Terah on the east of the Euphrates River, where they were idol worshipers (v.2). This was a humbling reminder for Israel, that they originated from one who had followed false gods. But grace can make a wonderful difference, as it did with Abraham, so that after leaving his native land he was led by God in traversing the land of Canaan, where the Lord also greatly blessed him, multiplying his descendants, though only his one son Isaac is mentioned by name, for Israel was to come from Isaac.
Jacob and Esau were born to Isaac. Esau was born first, but Jacob was God's choice to father a nation separate from all other nations. But while Esau possessed the land of Seir, Jacob and his family went down to Egypt (v.4).
Nothing is said of Moses' birth in Egypt nor of his honor in Pharaoh's court, but rather of God's sending Moses and Aaron to be the means of Israel's deliverance. Briefly too God's plagues on Egypt are mentioned, for it was these that eventually moved Pharaoh to release Israel (v.5). But it was God who brought them out, and God who had directed them to the Red Sea, which Israel would not have naturally chosen. The waters of death were rolled back for Israel to pass on dry ground, and the pursuing Egyptians found darkness while Israel was in the light (v.7).
Then the Lord answered the cries of Israel and the sea came back to its strength, covering all the Egyptians. Such reminders from Joshua ought to have stirred Israel to realize afresh how dependent they were upon the power and grace of God on their behalf. Their wanderings in the wilderness are only mentioned as being "a long time," for these were testings that had to do with their own weakness and failure, not with the sovereign grace and power of God.
But after this God brought them to the land of the Amorites to the east of Jordan, where again the power of God was manifest in Israel's defeating this nation and possessing their land (v.8).
At that time Balak king of Moab enlisted Balaam, a false prophet, with the object of cursing Israel and rendering them powerless before the Moabite army (v.9). But God intervened and Balaam's cursing turned to blessing for Israel, so that they were delivered from Moab (v.10). To be reminded thus that God was for Israel ought to have been a great incentive to them to cling all the more steadfastly to the Lord.
Then the Lord brought Israel over Jordan, where they defeated Jericho, then the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites (v.11). All of these victories were manifestly not because of the superior power of Israel, but the Lord "sent the hornet before you" (v.12). This is figurative of the fact of God's so dealing with the enemies that they were frightened as though attacked by hornets and thus rendered helpless to fight. Two kings of the Amorites are specifically mentioned as defeated without the help of Israel's sword or bow. Thus God had given Israel a land for which they did not labor and cities they had not built, and vineyards and olive groves they had not planted.
EXHORTATIONS BASED ON GOD'S FAITHFULNESS
Having received such blessing from God, it was only right that Israel should wholeheartedly serve the Lord in sincerity and in truth, putting away all those idols that Abraham had served long before (v.14), but had given up when he came to Canaan. It is notorious that people will often return to idols that were popular many years before just as today many people in western nations are returning to idolatrous mysticism that had been given no place when Christianity had a strong voice in these nations.
Joshua calls upon Israel to be decisive as to whom they would serve. Did they think it evil (that is, harmful) to serve the Lord? If so, then let them choose now between the idolatry that Abraham had refused or the idolatry of the Amorites (v.15). Joshua is firmly decisive as to himself and his house, as he says, "we will serve the Lord." He had evidently discerned already a tendency of departure on the part of the people.
The people respond that they will not forsake the Lord to serve other gods (v 16), and speak appreciatively of the things of which Joshua reminded them, God's delivering them from the bondage of Egypt, manifesting His presence by great signs, preserving them through the wilderness and driving out their enemies, to enable them to inherit the land. Therefore they affirm they will serve the Lord, "for He is our God" (v.18).
However, Joshua answered them, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God" (v.19). Joshua knew that Israel was really only expressing their confidence in the flesh, as Peter did when the Lord told him he would deny Him (Mt.26:31-35). It is impossible for the energy of the flesh to please God (Rom.8:8). On the basis of Israel's claim of righteousness, God would not forgive their transgressions nor their sins (v.19). Thank God He does forgive where there is the honest self-judgment of repentance. but if they were to forsake the Lord and serve other gods, there was no self-judgment in this, and after all God's goodness to them they would experience just the opposite in being consumed by harmful inflictions (v.20). Such is the righteous government of God in discipline.
The people still protest they will serve the Lord (v.21), 50 Joshua tells them they are witnesses against themselves, for in time to come, when they forsook the Lord, the witness of their own words would be against them. They fully agree that they are witnesses, for they did not suspect the treachery of their own hearts, but trusted their own strength (v 22).
However, in verse 23 Joshua tells them to put away the foreign gods that were among them. He knew that idolatry was already present. How could they say they would serve the Lord when they were already entertaining idols? But even today there are professing Christians who speak plainly against unholy practices, yet involve themselves with others who indulge in such practices. They seem unable to realize the inconsistency of such things. But Israel insists they will serve and obey the Lord God of Israel (v.24).
A RENEWED COVENANT
Just as God had made a covenant with Israel on the basis of law in Exodus 19 and 20, while knowing full well that Israel would not keep that covenant, so Joshua now makes a covenant with the people, though knowing they would not keep it (v.25). The covenant did not really encourage them to obey, but it would be a testimony against them when they disobeyed. It is not really a new covenant that Joshua makes, but a renewal of the covenant of law, which Israel had already broken, and instead of confessing their guilt, were now making a futile promise of doing better
Joshua wrote the words of the covenant in the book of the law of God, for the covenant only confirmed Israel's responsibility to keep that law (vs.26-27). Then he set up a large stone as a memorial of this covenant and as a standing witness to Israel' S promise. We may well wonder if they totally disregarded this stone in their after history. These were the last recorded words of Joshua to Israel, and the setting up of the stone his last recorded act.
TWO DEATHS AND THREE BURIALS
The time has come for Joshua's death at the age of 110 years, and he was buried within the borders of his own inheritance. His spiritual energy had effect on the elders who outlived him, so that Israel continued to serve the Lord during their lives. They had first hand knowledge of the great works of the Lord on behalf of Israel, but failed to so impress their children as to preserve them from departure.
Verse 32 also tells of the burial of Joseph's bones at Shechem in the plot of ground Jacob had bought (Gen.33:19). The sons of Joseph had inherited this land. Likely this burial took place before the death of Joshua.
Eleazar had been a faithful priest in the establishing of Israel in the land, a type of Christ in resurrection, but he too passes off the scene, so that the Book of Judges introduces an era much different than that of Joshua. In the main Joshua has been a book of victory, though not without setbacks. Judges deals mainly with Israel's failure, not without grace shining through.