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Five kings war against Gibeon; who are subdued by Joshua, great hail stones falling upon them from heaven: Joshua commands the sun and the moon to stand still; subdues many other cities, and returns triumphant to the camp at Gilgal.
Before Christ 1449.
Ver. 1. Now—when Adoni-zedec, &c.— Adoni-zedec, signifies lord of righteousness, which is nearly the same as Melchizedec. As these kings were both kings of Salem, or Jerusalem, some suppose, that the successors of Melchi-zedec affected a name like his to give themselves more dignity, by resembling in some measure that famous monarch. But while he assumed a name which called forth so many virtues, Adoni-zedec was not careful to imitate them. Contented to adorn himself with an amiable appellation, he limited his wishes to the being called just, without any endeavour to merit so excellent a sirname by just actions. It is very evident, that Jerusalem retained its ancient name of Salem till the Israelites took possession of it, and called it Jeru-salem. But the Benjamites, to whose lot it fell, being unable entirely to dislodge the Jebusites who occupied it, Jdg 1:21 and the latter having at length driven off the former, the Jebusites continued to call it Jebus, (Judges 19:10.) while the Israelites on their part called it
Jerusalem, says Bishop Patrick. It must, however, be acknowledged, that all this is but conjecture. It is neither proved, that Jerusalem is precisely the same city as the ancient Salem, nor that the Israelites gave it the name of Jerusalem when they made the conquest of it. This latter name did not begin to supplant those of Jebus, Sion, and city of David, till the time of Solomon. Whatever is urged to account for this change is dubious; nor are authors agreed respecting the true signification of the name Jerusalem. The Massoretes pronounce it Jerushalaim; but, according to the method in which the Chaldees pronounce the Hebrew, it should be read Jeroushelem, which come nearer to the Jerousalem of the Greeks, and our Jerusalem. This name is probably composed of Shalum, or Shalem, i.e. peace, and, as many persons think, of jarab, which signifies to fear, or from jarash, to inherit, to possess, (see Reland. Palaest. lib. 3: p. 834.) or from jerus, the same word as jebus, with the change only of a single letter.
Ver. 3. Adoni-zedec—sent unto Hoham, &c.— Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, were four cities situated south of Jerusalem, and, together with that city, given to the tribe of Judah, as we shall see hereafter.
Ver. 5. Therefore the five kings, &c.— Hebron belonged to the Hittites, Genesis 23:1-3; Genesis 25:9-10. Jerusalem to the Jebusites, chap. Jos 15:63 and the Gibeonites made a part of the Hivites, chap. Joshua 9:7. But as the Amorites were the most powerful nation in the land of Canaan, Gen 15:16 they held in subjection one part of their neighbours, and had given them kings. Hence it is, that the Gibeonites are particularly called a remnant of the Amorites, 2 Samuel 21:2.
REFLECTIONS.—Alarmed by the capture of Jericho and Ai, and more irritated with the surrender of Gibeon, Adoni-zedec, king of Jerusalem, (as it was afterwards called,) summons his neighbour kings to unite their forces against Gibeon; either to prevent so strong a city, and one so near him, from being occupied by his enemies, or to make an example of those who were accounted betrayers of their country. Note; They, who leave the ways of sin, must not expect to part from the world without persecution. Satan and his servants will prosecute those as deserters who inlist under the banners of Jesus.
Alarmed by their approaching danger, they fly to Joshua for help. Though mighty men, they know themselves unable to cope with these confederate armies, and therefore plead that league which, though fraudulently obtained, they were assured would be religiously observed. They are importunate, because the danger was imminent; and expect protection, not only for the oath's sake, but in honour, as allies suffering for their attachment to Israel; and in interest, as servants, whose destruction would be Israel's loss. Note; (1.) When our souls are sore thrust at by legions of corruptions within and temptations without, we must look up to Jesus, the glorious Captain of our salvation, whose hand is not shortened that it cannot save, nor his ear heavy that it cannot hear. (2.) If we are in fidelity cleaving to God as his servants, we may rest assured of his protection as our Almighty Lord.
Ver. 10. And chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon— That is, by the way of the mountain on which the town of Beth-horon was raised at the time of writing this book; for that town did not yet exist, nor was it built till the Israelites had taken possession of the land of Canaan. It was founded by Sherah, the daughter or granddaughter of Ephraim. See 1 Chronicles 7:24. But it should be remarked, that she built Beth-horon the nether and the upper; these are the expressions of the historian. We do not exactly know the situation of these two towns; both of them were in the tribe of Ephraim, one to the south, the other to the north. It is certain, that that of which we are now speaking is Beth-horon the nether, or the southern, which was upon the frontiers of Ephraim, near the mountains. See Wells's Geog. vol. 2: p. 200.
And smote them to Azekah and unto Makkedah— The towns of Azekah and Makkedah are afterwards reckoned among the cities of Judah, chap. Joshua 15:35; Joshua 15:41. They are both placed in the northern part of that tribe. Azekah could not be a great way from Jarmuth, so far as one may judge from chap. Jos 15:35 and consequently must be less northerly than Makkedah.
Ver. 11. And—as they—were in the going down to Beth-horon— First, the kings in league fled towards Beth-horon, which was situate upon a little hill to the north of Gibeon. Their design evidently was to throw themselves into the place, and to occupy the heights of the mountains; but they were yet only on the declivity of the hill which led to Beth-horon, when the power of God armed nature to complete their overthrow. Hence, probably, the name Beth-horon, which signifies literally the house of anger.
And—the Lord cast down great stones—upon them unto Azekah, and they died, &c.— I. Some able commentators understand these words of a real shower of stones. This is the opinion of Grotius, Masius, Bonfrere, Vossius, and some others, particularly Calmet; see his learned Dissertation before his Commentary on Joshua. The substance of their arguments is here subjoined. I. The text expressly signifies, that the Lord cast upon the army of the Amoritish kings great stones; and, though these stones are immediately after called hail-stones, yet that is only to denote the swiftness, quantity, and size of these stones. Indeed, the expression to fall like hail is not only common to all the ancient, but has also been preserved in most modern languages. 2. History makes mention of divers showers of stones having fallen in the course of time at divers places, and even speaks of enormous masses falling from heaven; witness that which Calmet attests to have been seen in the parochial church of Ensishem in Alsace, and which, we are assured, fell among the hail on the 7th Nov. 1492. It is like a blackish flint which had been in the fire, and whose circumference had been broken into several pieces; it is said to have weighed about three hundred pounds. These facts, say some, are so well attested, that one cannot entertain a doubt of them without being guilty of manifest temerity. 3. No one can deny that dust, sand, earth, and other materials, may be carried to a considerable height into the air by a whirlwind: now what can hinder these matters from mixing with sulphureous, bituminous, or oily exhalations, and with the moisture of the clouds, hardening together through their own weight, and the pressure of the air and clouds, so as to fall afterwards, when they can be no longer kept up? Or, the shower of stones mentioned by Joshua might happen thus: Flints might have been raised into the air by a blast or whirlwind from without, or by a fire and compressed air from within. The wisdom of the Almighty might so manage these causes, and so determine them, as to produce their effects at the time and in the circumstances proper for destroying the enemies of his people. Nothing, in one sense, is more natural than all this; nothing, in another sense, more miraculous. It is by no means necessary, therefore, to have recourse to a figurative sense, nor, as others have done, to the assistance of angels, to account for this miracle, since all that was supernatural in this event consisted merely in the directing of the tempest in such a manner as to make it fall on the heads of the Canaanites.
II. Such, in substance, are the arguments urged in support of the literal sense. But to most commentators they seem very insubstantial; and not without reason. For, 1. That which Joshua calls stones, he himself explains by hail-stones. 2. It is so understood by the LXX, Josephus, (Hist. Jud. lib. 5: cap. 1.) and the author of Sir 46:6; Sir 46:3. The showers of stones spoken of by so many writers have the appearance of fable, and merit little or no credit. See Scheuchzer, tom. iv. p. 106. 4. On the contrary, the fearful devastations of hail are determined by Scripture, Exodus 9:23; Exodus 9:35.Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 13:13; Ezekiel 22:5. They are no less so by facts drawn from ancient and modern history, all absolutely incontestable. Let any one but open the Philosophical Transactions of our Royal Society, and he will see examples, taken not only from past ages, but almost from our own time, of hail-stones nearly half a pound in weight, which have ruined countries, and killed great numbers of men and beasts for seventy miles round. Such was the hail which fell in Suffolk the 17th of July 1666; that which oppressed the country about Lisle in 1686; that which happened in Wales in 1697; and, particularly, that which did so much damage in Staffordshire in the same year. We have, moreover, an account of the hail which in 1717 desolated Namur, and the whole country round it, the smallest pieces of which weighed a quarter of a pound, others a pound, others three, and some eight. All these events prove, that hail-stones alone are sufficient to have done that damage to the army of the Amorites which is mentioned by the sacred historian; so that nothing obliges us to have recourse to another explanation. 6. If then it be asked, wherein confirms the miracle? It is easily answered, that it is in the circumstances of the event, which happened in the very instant proper for assisting those to whom God had promised victory; and which, without doing any hurt to God's protected people, destroyed his enemies, and was more fatal to them than the sword of the conquerors: an event that will always be considered as a miracle by every unprejudiced mind. God, for the working of miracles, has frequently employed the agency of second causes and natural phaenomena: frequently, without producing new beings, he only employs in a manner extraordinary, and impossible to any but himself, those beings which his hand has already formed. In the present case, perhaps, he might not form the hail by an immediate effort of his Omnipotence, and perhaps the impetuous wind which caused it to fall with full force from Beth-horon to Azekah, i.e. twelve or fourteen miles in extent, had nothing in it but what was natural; but the time when the thing happened, and the persons who suffered it, shew his hand too visibly for us to be able to overlook it. To conclude, fabulous story has imitated, or rather disfigured this wonderful event, by assuring us, that, at the prayer of Hercules, Jupiter sent a shower of hail upon Albion and Bergion. See Pomp. Mela. lib. 2: cap. 5. Calmet and Bibliotheque Raisonnee, tom. 29: p. 2 art. 8.
Ver. 12-14. Then spake Joshua, &c.— We may refer all that is necessary to say on this remarkable passage to the five following heads. I. The miracle itself, and the manner in which it is described. To facilitate the Israelites obtaining a complete victory over the five kings of the Amorites, God, at the prayer of Joshua, caused the sun and the moon to stand still, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies: there are the words of the historian, confirmed by Habakkuk 3:11. But as, in the opinion of all modern philosophers, it is the earth which rolls round the sun, and not the sun round the earth, how is it possible to reconcile this system with the expressions of the sacred writer? To answer this question, without entering into discussions foreign to the design of a commentary, we content ourselves with remarking, that nothing is more common in Scripture than to express things, not according to the strict rules of philosophy, but according to their appearances, and the vulgar apprehension concerning them. For instance, Moses calls the sun and moon two great lights; but, however this appellation may agree with the sun, it cannot in the same sense signify the moon, which is now well known to be but a small body, and to have no light at all but what it borrows by a reflection of the rays of the sun; appearing to us larger than the other planets, merely because it is placed nearer to us. From this appearance it is, that the Holy Scriptures give it the title of a great light. In like manner, because the sun seems to us to move, and the earth to be at rest, the Scriptures represent the latter as placed on pillars, bases, and foundations, compare the former to a bridegroom issuing from his chamber, and rejoicing as a giant to run his course, and speak of his arising and going down, and hastening to the place from whence he arose, &c. when it is certain, that if the sun were made to revolve round the earth, the general laws of nature would thereby be violated, the harmony and proportion of the heavenly bodies destroyed, and the oeconomy of the universe thrown into confusion and disorder. On the contrary, supposing the earth to turn upon its own axis within the space of twenty-four hours, and to go round the sun in the compass of a year, it will then be easily conceived to move according to the same laws of motion which impel the other planets round one common centre, and the execution whereof constitutes the order and harmony admired in the whole frame of nature. The general design of God when he inspired the sacred writers, having been to form mankind to holiness and virtue, not to make them philosophers; it no way derogates from the respect due to the Holy Spirit, or from the consideration which the writings of those holy men merit, whose pens he directed, to suppose, that in order to accommodate themselves to the capacity, the notions and language of the vulgar, they have purposely spoken of the phaenomena of nature in terms most conformable to the testimony of the senses. In the present case, Joshua seems to have had in view the modern system, when he commanded the moon as well as the sun to stand still; for, of what use could the presence of the moon be to him, while favoured with that of the sun? What he required, without doubt, was, that the sun and moon might lend him their light till he had completed the overthrow of his enemies. Now he could not be ignorant, that if the earth stood still, the sun, the moon, and the rest of the planets, must also seem to stand still: he chose, therefore, to speak the common language of the people, in order to be generally understood. II. The second thing which here presents itself to our consideration is, the place or places where Joshua desired and obtained that the sun and moon might appear to stand. Sun, said he, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon! "Let those two great lights seem stopped and immoveable in that part of the heavens where they at this instant appear to be; the one upon Gibeon, the other over Ajalon." Supposing the modern system of the sun's motion to be accurate, Joshua could not speak this in a proper and philosophical sense. The sun, near a million times bigger than the earth, is many millions of miles distant from it. To justify, therefore, its being literally upon Gibeon, a line drawn perpendicularly from the centre of the sun to that of the earth must exactly take Gibeon in its way; now this is impossible, in as much as the Holy Land does not lie between the tropics. We must, therefore, necessarily conclude, that Joshua here speaks in the popular and figurative style; which is very intelligible, on a supposition that the earth moves round the sun. Those who would enter more philosophically into this subject, we refer to Scheuchzer, tom. 4: p. 37. III. Our third observation respects the time of the miracle. The text imports, that the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day; or more simply, for the whole day. The words, in the midst of heaven, always signify the place of the sun and moon. Accordingly there it stood still, appearing to remain for a whole day, or twelve hours, in the same position. The account of the sacred historian necessarily leads us to understand it in this manner. The various transactions here recorded could not have been brought about in the compass of an ordinary day. The notion of Maimonides is so absurd, that it is inconceivable how Grotius and Masius could have approved it; for he makes the whole miracle to consist, not in God's having granted to Joshua's request really a longer day than was common at this season of the year, but in his giving that general and his soldiers powers sufficient for the effecting in one day what would otherwise have required two: whereas the historian expressly declares that the sun stood still, and that there was no day like that, before it or after it; and, indeed, never before, or since, was there so great a victory as this of Joshua obtained in a single day. It has been asked, why did not Joshua, instead of desiring God to arrest the sun in his mid-day course, delay his request till it was just upon its decline? Now it appears very evident from the event, how greatly it concerned the certainty and splendour of the miracle, that it should begin from the sun's being at the meridian of Gibeon. Had the retardation of the sun not happened till it was going to set, how many might have thought it plausible to attribute, with Spinosa, the extraordinary length of this day to the refraction of the rays from the clouds, which, at that time, were loaded with hail; or to maintain, with Piererius, that it was owing to some aurora borealis, or other similar phaenomenon, which, after the setting of the sun, might appear about Gibeon, and so be mistaken for the sun's standing still! See Spin. Tract. Theol. Polit. cap. 2. & Praeadam. lib. 4: cap. 6. But now, by supposing the sun arrested at noon-day, all these cavils are effectually removed; and God, no doubt, who heard Joshua so readily, inspired him to request the miracle at the very time he did so. See Calmet's Dissertation on the subject. IV. But what is that book of Jasher, or the righteous, to which that sacred historian refers for the truth of this fact? Some are of opinion, that it was a poetical work, in the taste of the Orientals, full of hyperboles, and which it would be absurd to understand in a literal sense: and they add, that perhaps the author, in singing the victory of Joshua, had, under an elegant fiction, represented the planets arrested and day lengthened, in order to render the victory more complete; in the same manner as a Greek poet said, that the sun was used to stay his chariot to hear the melody of a choir of nymphs (see Callim. Hym. ad. Dian. ver. 120.); or as another poet represents the course of this planet as suspended with horror at the offence of Atreus, bloody with the murder of the son of Thyestes, whom he gave to the unhappy father to eat. See Stat. Theb. lib. 1: ver. 289 and lib. 5: ver. 177. We find, say the defenders of this opinion, several passages in Scripture like this; which yet there is no necessity to understand literally, Judges 5:20. Isaiah 13:9-10; Isaiah 34:1-5. But those, who are inclined to see this method of interpretation defended to the utmost, may refer to a dissertation, intitled, "The Sun's standing still in the days of Joshua, rationally accounted for by A. O. LL. D. London, 1739:" an interpretation which appears to us in every respect ill-grounded, as there is nothing in the text of Joshua, which does not lead one to believe, that the historian spoke in the most simple and literal manner; and surely no examples in such cases should be drawn from the strongly figurative and metaphorical expressions of the classics. As to the passages brought in proof from Scripture, they are evidently figurative, and cannot be understood with propriety in a literal sense; those, for instance, in the song of Deborah, would be absurd in a literal sense: the sun may easily be supposed to stand still, but it cannot be supposed to sing; the stars may easily be retained by a divine course in their orbits, but they cannot fight. It is wonderful, that men should compare things which have so little resemblance. Though the Hebrew, according to some, may be translated, Sun, be silent upon Gibeon; it is no less true, that it may be translated with great propriety, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon. See 1 Samuel 14:9; 1 Samuel 5:0; 1 Samuel 5:0. As to the objections raised against this miracle from St.
Paul's silence respecting it, Hebrews 11:0 and its being entirely unknown to heathen writers, the answer is easy: the argument with respect to St. Paul proves too much; for how came the apostle to omit other miraculous events? He speaks not, for example, of the plagues of Egypt, of the miracles of Moses in the wilderness, nor of the passage of the Jordan, &c. Designing only to give some notable examples of the efficacy of faith, he is neither curious in his choice, nor exact in his enumeration; of which there was the less need, as he wrote to Hebrews well acquainted with all these facts. And as to the silence of the heathen writers, that is nothing surprising; for the miracle of which we speak so long preceded every prophane writer of whom we have any remains, that there is no wonder that all remembrance of it was lost before the time of their writings: and yet, if one may be allowed to draw light out of darkness, it should seem very reasonable to conjecture, that the idea of the poets, that their heroes and demi-gods had the power of prolonging days and nights upon certain occasions, arose from this extraordinary event; nay, after all, should we find nothing in prophane history to confirm this fact, no conclusion can be drawn from thence against the literal sense of the words of the sacred writer, even setting aside his divine authority, if we would judge of him with the same candour as of every other historian. But see Huet, Demonstr. Evang. prop. 4: sect. 13. Quaest. Alnet. lib. 2: cap. 12 sect. 27 and Lucan, lib. 6: ver. 460, &c. Purver, in a note upon the passage, observes, that the Chinese History has a tradition, that the sun did not set for ten days, while the emperor Yao reigned. Days, says he, may be thought a mistake for hours, and both miracles to be the same, as the chronological computation exactly agrees.
In conclusion of this note we just observe, that it is easy to show that God, in the present case, interposed his sovereign power in a manner worthy his wisdom and greatness. I. The Gibeonites, now become subject to God, were to be protected against their unjust oppressors. 2. The best way of protecting them, was that which most powerfully evinced the superiority of the God of Israel, and his infinite might. Had the sword of the Israelites alone gained the victory, the success might have been attributed to their valour, to the courage and good conduct of their general, to the fortuitous arrangement of circumstances, or to other similar causes; whereas, the traces of the divine power gave incontestable splendor to the miracle thus wrought at the prayer of Joshua 3:0. The sun and the moon were the principal objects of adoration with the Canaanites: to arrest these great luminaries in their course, and to do this at Joshua's request, was to give idolatry the severest blow; was to teach idolaters, in the most striking manner, that their gods were but vanity, and their worship foolishness.
Ver. 14. And there was no day like that, &c.— Some say it was thirty-six hours long: others think, that the sacred author only means, that no other day was ever seen in which the course of the planets was arrested at the prayer of a mortal. Amama has made a full collection of the various opinions of the critics upon the subject. See Anti-barbaro Biblico. lib. 3: p. 381, &c.
For the Lord fought for Israel— Namely, by causing an extraordinary hail to fall upon their enemies; by stopping the sun, to allow them time for conquest; by giving them strength to pursue the confederated kings; and by preserving them from the strokes of that terrible shower which fell on the desecrated Amorites.
REFLECTIONS.—After the taking of Ai, the army seems to have rested awhile in Gilgal, and is now roused up to action by the attack made on their allies; in which the Canaanites being aggressors, the justice of their ruin is more evident, whilst by their confederacy they were brought together for a readier consumption by the sword of Israel.
1. Joshua, animated by divine encouragement, prepares to succour the trembling Gibeonites. They need not fear who have God with them, and never-failing promises for their security. 2. He marches all night with a select body of valiant men, in order to shew his readiness to help his friends, and unexpectedly to surprise his enemies. Note; (1.) In war, a well-judged expeditious march is among the chief proofs of generalship. (2.) They who would serve the Lord Jesus must follow him night and day, and stop at no toil that he may call them to endure. By and by their labours will end, and they shall rest in eternal uninterrupted peace. 3. God's marvellous interposition. Though he might have destroyed them by the sword in battle, he chooses rather immediately to manifest his power, that Israel may know to whom they are indebted for victory, and their enemies be made sensible against whom they lift up themselves. God discomfited them, put terror on their spirits, and gave them up to slaughter as sheep; and from heaven, in their flight, cast down hail-stones of such a size, as slew more than fell by the sword. Note; Upon the ungodly will he shortly rain a more terrible hail, Rev 16:21 and judgments worse than death itself shall overtake them; under which men shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. 4. Joshua's prayer. Fearing now lest the darkness should cover the flight of his enemies, and moved by divine impulse to make this strange request, he begs that God would stay the motions of the heavenly bodies, (as to us they appear to move,) or rather the revolution of this earthly globe, that, by prolonging the light of day, they might avenge themselves on their enemies; and being under the influence of miraculous faith, in the hearing of Israel, he commands the sun to stand still now on Gibeon in the west, and the rising moon to rest in the valley of Ajalon. 5. God hears and answers him: the sun, arrested in his steep descent, hastes not to go down, nor the rising moon to advance, during the space of a whole day. Never was such a day before, or since: but God fought for Israel, therefore he granted the prayer of Israel's captain. Note; (1.) Great is the power of effectual fervent prayer. (2.) When God stirs up a spirit of supplication, it is a sure sign of his intention to grant the requests which he teaches us to make. (3.) God will appear for his people's comfort, and his enemies' confusion; and, if need be, all nature shall engage in their quarrel. (4.) When Israel's enemies shall receive their final overthrow, at the appearing of our great God and Saviour in the day of judgment, and perdition of ungodly men, then shall our sun no more go down, nor our moon withdraw itself for ever.
See commentary on Jos 10:12
Ver. 15. And Joshua returned, and all Israel—to Gilgal— That is to say, he issued orders for so doing; but from ver. 43 it appears, that he did not, in fact, return till he had forced the five kings to come from the cave where they had taken refuge. It might be rendered, and Joshua was about to return to Gilgal. The Scripture sometimes mentions as done, what was designed to be done. See Genesis 37:21.
Ver. 16. But these five kings fled— That is, the kings mentioned above, in ver. 3. And hid themselves, &c. escaped from the sword of the conqueror; they had eluded the pursuit and the hail, by taking a different road from that of their main army: perhaps too they had prepared, for any event, beasts to carry them off with all dispatch. Be that as it may, they retired into a cavern near Makkedah, (for so the Hebrew particle should be rendered here and in ver. 10.) and there concluded themselves safe. Caves, it seems, dug in the rocks, are very common in those countries; they are places of retreat, and forts, whither the people retire at the time of war and invasion. We find several accounts of them collected by Reland in his Palaest. Sacr. l. iii. p. 648.
Ver. 21. All the people returned—in peace— The LXX translate it, safe and sound; the Vulgate, unhurt, and in the same number. That is to say, the detachments, which pursued after the runaways, returned to Joshua without any loss. The next clause Bochart and others translate, there was not a dog that moved his tongue, &c. supplying the word dog, and making the words a kind of proverbial phrase, synonimous to that in Exo 11:7 as if the historian had said, that the victory of the Israelites was so complete, and so great their tranquillity after the battle, that even a dog would not have dared to bark against the Hebrews. See Hieroz. p. i. l. ii. c. 55.
Ver. 22-25. Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave— In full view of all his troops, now returned to the camp near Makkedah, and before his assaulting that place, Joshua caused the five kings to be brought forth out of the cavern, which had served as their prison all the while the action of that miraculous day continued. Next he commands his principal officers to put their feet upon the necks of these kings: a rough and contemptuous treatment, but which God had, doubtless, enjoined him to use, in order to intimidate the Canaanites, by thus punishing them with the utmost rigour for their aggravated iniquity; to encourage the Israelites, and to accomplish gloriously what Moses had declared to them respecting their future prosperity. See Deuteronomy 33:29.
Ver. 26, 27. And afterward Joshua smote them, &c.— He hung these five kings; and at the sun-setting they were taken down from their gibbets by his orders, lest the land which God had chosen to inhabit should be defiled by their dead bodies. Deuteronomy 21:23. Thus the king of Ai had been before executed. Maimonides and the Samaritan Chronicle add, that, together with the bodies of the five kings, Joshua caused the instruments of their punishment, and all that had been used for the purpose, to be shut up in the cave of Makkedah. This cave served as a sepulchre to the five vanquished princes, and was again blocked up by a heap of stones to serve as a monument of their tragical end, and of the triumph of the conquerors. Travellers inform us, that this cavern is still to be seen, and that it is inclosed with walls.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here,
1. News brought to Joshua of the discovery of the five kings, who had fled for concealment into a cave near Makkedah. To secure them there, great stones are rolled to the mouth of it, and, without staying to execute on them the intended judgment, the people are commanded to continue their pursuit. Note; When our spiritual enemies are falling, we must pursue the blow: the more complete the conquest, the more glorious the future triumph. 2. The pursuit is continued, and ended; the few who escaped the sword, only escaped to spread the terror of the defeat into the neighbouring cities, while Israel returned to Joshua at Makkedah, without the loss of a man. So easily can God turn the fury of the greatest persecutors into perfect tranquillity, and, after the severest storm has threatened, say, Peace, be still; and there shall be a great calm. 3. Now the kings are brought from their concealment, undergo the severest humiliation, and afterwards suffer the death which their pride, idolatry, and tyranny had merited. The captains are commanded to tread on their necks, not haughtily to insult their misery, but by way of terror to the kings of Canaan, and as an assurance that thus should all their enemies be laid low before them. They need not fear or be dismayed at the most numerous armies or mightiest kings, when God thus evidently fights for them. Note; (1.) The sinner who flies from God will find his securest retreat but a refuge of lies. (2.) Our triumphant Jesus has thus destroyed the principalities and powers of darkness, and will shortly bruise Satan, and all the other enemies of his people, under their feet.
Ver. 28. And that day Joshua took Makkedah— Usher, by that day, understands, the day of hanging the five kings; and he is of opinion, that it was the morning after the victory: but it seems more easy and plain to conceive, that Joshua carried the assault of Makkedah on the very day in which he defeated the confederate army, and immediately after he had executed the unfortunate princes who commanded it. We are not to be surprised that so many things should be done in one day, so long protracted as this was by the suspension of the sun's course. The king of Makkedah was not taken alive, like him of Ai, but put to the sword with all the inhabitants who had rejected peace; only the city, the cattle, and the spoil, were spared.
And he did to the king of Makkedah, as he did unto the king of Jericho— The Scripture does not say how the king of Jericho was treated; but it is presumed, from what is said of the other kings, that his body was hanged up. The first verse of this chapter supports the conjecture.
Ver. 29-32. Then Joshua passed—unto Libnah—and—from Libnah—unto Lachish, &c.— Having refreshed his army, Joshua brought it before Libnah, a town near Makkedah, chap. Jos 15:41-42 and which, afterwards, being comprized in the tribe of Judah, fell to the lot of the Levites, chap. Joshua 21:13. 1 Chronicles 6:57. Sennacherib laid siege to it, when he so haughtily menaced king Hezekiah, 2 Kings 19:8. Eusebius and St. Jerome say, that Libnah, in their time, was a village in the district of Eleutheropolis. Joshua put all the inhabitants to the sword, and then, advancing towards the south, proceeded to Lachish, seven miles from Eleutheropolis, and subdued it in like manner; but it cost him a day more than its neighbour Libnah; which probably was owing to the diversion given by the king of Horam, of which we proceed to take notice.
Ver. 33. Then Horam, king of Gezer, came up to help Lachish, &c.— While Joshua was besieging Lachish, the king of Gezer came to its assistance. Gezer was in the south part of the country, which fell to the tribe of Ephraim, (ch. Joshua 16:3.) between Beth-horon and the sea, and, as it should seem, not far from Gibeon: 1Ch 14:16 but it is evident that the Israelites did not possess it till the time of Solomon, to whom it was given by his father-in-law, Pharaoh, 1 Kings 9:16-17. In St. Jerome's time, it was no more than a little town, known by the name of Gazara, four miles south of Nicopolia, the ancient Emmaus. Joshua did not proceed thither, but detached a party of his army from Lachish, which cut in pieces that of Horam, and then came back and completed the siege.
Ver. 34, 35. And from Lachish, Joshua passed unto Eglon, &c.— This town, at a small distance from Lachish, fell to the tribe of Judah.
Ver. 36, 37. And-37 Joshua went up from Eglon—unto Hebron— The king of Hebron was one of the five confederated against Israel. They must, therefore, have quickly appointed him a successor; and it was this successor whom Joshua put to the sword. With respect to Hebron itself, we have already more than once spoken of it in the history of Abraham. See Genesis 13:18. It fell to the tribe of Judah, and was situated among the mountains. All the towns in the district of Hebron, which was the capital, and consequently figured among the principal cities of the country, were involved in the common fate. Caleb was one of the chief instruments in this conquest, and signalised himself by the defeat of the three sons of Anak; ch. Joshua 15:13-14.Judges 1:10; Judges 1:10.
Ver. 41. And all the country of Goshen— There was a city of Goshen in the tribe of Judah, towards the south, among the mountains, like Hebron; (see ch. Joshua 15:51.) and this city evidently gave its name to the whole district. It was a place full of excellent pastures, well watered, and like the land of Goshen in Egypt. See Calmet, and Genesis 45:10. Pelican is of opinion, that both of them went by the name of Goshen, from the Hebrew word geshem, which signifies a plentiful shower. Even unto Gibeon, i.e. says Bishop Patrick, towards the north.
Ver. 42. And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, &c.— Three remarks here offer themselves to our consideration. 1. That Joshua, in making himself master of these countries, did not destroy all the inhabitants, but only such as had not fled. 2. That then kings carried to their camps all who were able to bear arms; so that, at a first defeat, all was lost with them, and the slaughter was inexpressible. But it is especially to be here remarked, 3. That, in all probability, Joshua, having taken the cities of Canaan with great rapidity, and then set fire to them, left them afterwards, and proceeded to other conquests; thus availing himself of the perturbation and distress of the nations: but that after this first setting on fire, those, who had escaped the danger, returning to their cities immediately, set about fortifying them afresh; and that thus, while Joshua over-ran the country, carrying every where fire and sword, and leaving no garrisons in any of the cities, lest he should thereby too much weaken his army, the Canaanites used all their endeavours to re-settle in the places which they had before abandoned. Properly speaking, therefore, it was not till after the division of the country that the Israelites drove the Canaanites from the cities that fell to each tribe. The rules of war required, that Joshua should first destroy all the chiefs of the enemies' nation, and disable the country from resisting him; after which, it was easy to reduce such places as, being no longer supported by the common aid of other cities, could not fail of falling soon into the hands of the Israelites, provided they would use their efforts to subdue them, either by force or famine. But God permitted many of them to be left unreduced; which, in the event, was a cause of their ruin and destruction. Besides, if Joshua made so rapid a progress, it was because God fought for Israel; or, as the Chaldee paraphrase expresses it, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel by his Word.
Ver. 43. And Joshua returned—to Gilgal— Either for refreshment, or to divide the fruits of their victories with those who had not fought; or, more particularly, to pay to God their thanksgivings in his sanctuary. Thus gloriously ended (according to Usher's calculation) the fortieth year since the departure from Egypt. Moses had begun it with the conquest of the kingdoms of Sihon and Og; Joshua ended it with that of a great part of the land of Canaan. In the middle of this war the manna ceased, and the Israelites ate of the corn of the country; so that, as the learned chronologist proceeds to remark, they began to sow in autumn, and consequently, from that time also, they began to reckon their sabbatical years. It was necessary to divide the country before they cultivated it; so that the first sabbatical year must have fallen out upon the seventh year after the division among the tribes.
Note; (1.) The judgments of God, in so severe an extirpation of this accursed race, should lead us to consider the end of impenitent sinners. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations who forget God. (2.) When we have completed our victories over the powers of sin and Satan, we shall return, under the conduct of our divine Joshua, to our eternal rest in the camp of God.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 10". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany