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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

Joshua 11

Verses 1-3

Hazor (lit. enclosure) was the leading city in northern Canaan with an area of 175 acres and a population of 30,000 to 40,000 people. [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 74. See also The New Bible Dictionary, 1962 ed., s.v. "Hazor," by T. C. Mitchell.] Archaeologists calculate the population of walled cities in Canaan as about 200 people per acre. Hazor was at one time the head of an alliance of all the northern cities (Joshua 11:10). [Note: See Mary Rattigan, "Hazor and Its Significance," The Bible Today 23:1 (January 1985):44-50; Waltke, "Palestinian Artifactual . . .," pp. 42-46; and Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 120.] Jabin (Joshua 11:1) may have been a title rather than a proper name (cf. Judges 4:2), or it may have been a personal name. [Note: Hess, p. 208.]

Verses 1-15

8. Conquests in northern Canaan 11:1-15

The leaders of the northern Canaanite cities also decided to unite to withstand the threat of Israelite expansion.

Verses 4-9

According to Josephus the combined armies of the Canaanite tribes totaled 300,000 armed footmen, 10,000 horsemen, and 20,000 chariots. [Note: Josephus, 5:1:18.]

"The northern coalition was Israel’s most formidable foe in terms of both numbers and weaponry. Each successive battle that Israel fought was more difficult than the last." [Note: Madvig, p. 309.]

The waters of Merom (Joshua 11:5) were evidently small lakes close to the village of Merom that was west of Hazor. Some scholars equate the waters of Merom with Lake Huleh. Lake Huleh lay to the north of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). Others equate Merom with Madon, about five miles west of modern Tiberias. [Note: Hess, p. 209.] These locations seem less likely.

Hamstringing involved cutting the hamstring muscle of the horses’ legs. Hamstringing the horses and burning the chariots (Joshua 11:6; Joshua 11:9) had two effects. The enemy could not use them again, and the Israelites could not use them or trust in them.

Verses 10-15

Archaeological evidence supports a fifteenth-century destruction of Hazor. [Note: Douglas Petrovich, "The Dating of Hazor’s Destruction in Joshua 11 by Way of Biblical, Archaeological, and Epigraphical Evidence," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 51:3 (September 2008):489-512.] The meaning of the phrase "cities that stood on their mounds" (Joshua 11:13) is unclear.

"It would be difficult to point out any single expression in the whole book of Joshua, perhaps in the whole Scriptures, more difficult of explanation than this." [Note: Bush, p. 134.]

Perhaps these were the older more influential towns that previous generations had rebuilt on their former ruins. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 122.] If this is the meaning, probably Joshua did not burn them because he wanted to preserve these towns with time-honored sites for the Israelites’ occupation.

The secret of Joshua’s remarkable success from the human viewpoint was his consistent obedience to the Lord (Joshua 11:15). We too will experience victory over our spiritual enemies-the world, the flesh, and the devil-to the extent that we do God’s will as He has revealed that in His Word.

Verses 16-23

The conquest of the land 11:16-23

The writer referred to Canaan as "the land of the sons of Israel" first here in Scripture (Joshua 11:22). The Anakim were the mighty warriors that the 10 spies had feared (Numbers 13:28). Israel destroyed most of them.

"The hardening of their [the kings Joshua defeated] hearts [Joshua 11:20] was punitive. Their iniquity was now full (cf. Genesis 15:16). The long respite granted to them by a long-suffering God wrought no repentance in them." [Note: Armerding, p. 108. See also Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "Divine Hardening in the Old Testament," Bibliotheca Sacra 153:612 (October-December 1996):429-30.]

"Here is a biblical lesson which has always been difficult for the people of God to learn. Deuteronomy commanded Israel to obey God, destroy the inhabitants, have no mercy, make no covenant, make no marriages (Joshua 7:1-3). Such a command had a divine purpose. It removed the temptations to follow other gods. From the days of the Judges and especially from the period of Solomon onward, the great temptation was to make political alliances through covenants and political marriages between royal families (1 Kings 11:1-8; 1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 20:30-43). To protect Israel against the major sin of idolatry, God commanded her not to show mercy to the enemy. To enable her to keep his commandment, God caused her enemies to fight her rather than seek mercy and peace." [Note: Butler, p. 130.]

Joshua subdued the whole land (Joshua 11:23) in the sense that there were no more pitched battles by the combined Israelite tribal forces following Joshua’s conquests. God expected individual tribes to subdue the remaining towns and pockets of resistance from then on (cf. Joshua 13:1; Judges 1:1).

"The taking of the whole land does not imply that all the towns and villages to the very last had been conquered, or that all the Canaanites were rooted out from every corner of the land, but simply that the conquest was of such a character that the power of the Canaanites was broken, their dominion overthrown, and their whole land so thoroughly given into the hands of the Israelites, that those who still remained here and there were crushed into powerless fugitives, who could neither offer any further opposition to the Israelites, nor dispute the possession of the land with them, if they would only strive to fulfil [sic] the commandments of their God and persevere in the gradual extermination of the scattered remnants." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 125.]

"The error of contrasting Joshua’s rapid campaigns (misread as permanent conquest) with slower occupation in Judges 1 misses the point entirely. And how often the proponents of this theory omit even to read Joshua 13! Thirty-one dead kinglets (Joshua 12) were not a conquest in depth, merely a cropping of the leadership. At the end of Joshua’s career, there still remained ’very much land to be possessed’ (Joshua 13:1)-both the areas listed (Joshua 13:2-6) largely unreached by Joshua’s vigour, as well as the in-depth settlement of most of the districts already raided. That process was more painfully slow, even in Joshua’s lifetime; cf. the remarks in Joshua 18:2-3 (Joshua’s rebuke), besides the frustrated efforts recorded here and there (Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:12; Joshua 17:16)." [Note: Kitchen, pp. 90-91.]

The words of God to Moses to which the writer alluded (Joshua 11:23) are probably those in Exodus 23:27-33 (cf. Deuteronomy 7:22). There God told Moses He would not drive all the Canaanites out of the land in one year but little by little. This is how the conquest of the land had advanced thus far and how it should have continued to its completion.

The major war with the Canaanites ended (Joshua 11:23), but minor battles and mopping up operations were still necessary. Not only did the Israelites obtain the land, but they defeated the Canaanite kings and broke their power. Jensen considered Joshua 11:23 the key verse of the book. [Note: Jensen, p. 17.]

"There has never been a greater war for a greater cause. The battle of Waterloo decided the fate of Europe, but this series of contests in far-off Canaan decided the fate of the world." [Note: Henry T. Sell, Bible Study by Periods, p. 83.]

Verses 16-24

9. Summary of Joshua’s conquests 11:16-12:24

This summary is in three parts: the land, the kings east of the Jordan, and the kings west of the Jordan.

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 11". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/joshua-11.html. 2012.