|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
11:1-9 The wonders God wrought for the Israelites were to encourage them to act vigorously themselves. Thus the war against Satan's kingdom, carried on by preaching the gospel, was at first forwarded by miracles; but being fully proved to be of God, we are now left to the Divine grace in the usual course, in the use of the sword of the Spirit. God encouraged Joshua. Fresh dangers and difficulties make it necessary to seek fresh supports from the word of God, which we have nigh unto us for use in every time of need. God proportions our trials to our strength, and our strength to our trials. Joshua's obedience in destroying the horses and chariots, shows his self-denial in compliance with God's command. The possession of things on which the carnal heart is prone to depend, is hurtful to the life of faith, and the walk with God; therefore it is better to be without worldly advantages, than to have the soul endangered by them.
Verse 4. And they went out. Dean Stanley (Lectures, 1:259) compares this "last struggle" of the Canaanites with the conflict between the Saxons and the British chiefs "driven to the Land's End." The comparison is more picturesque than accurate. In the first place, it was by no means a "last struggle" (see ver. 21; Joshua 18:3; Joshua 19:47; Judges 4. throughout). In the next, the Britons were never driven to the Land's End, but Dorsetshire, which retained its independence for 200 years, was treated by Ina as Gezer (Joshua 16:10), was treated by the Ephraimites, while Devonshire and Cornwall came very gradually and almost peacefully under the hands of the conquerors. And thirdly, even had it been otherwise, there is a vast difference between a handful of desperate men driven to bay on a tongue of land surrounded nearly on every side by the sea, and a powerful, though defeated, nation with a vast continent in its rear. Yet there are many features common to the history of the Israelites in Canaan, and of the Teutonic tribes in Britain (see Introduction). As the sand that is upon the sea shore. This poetic phrase is common in the Hebrew writings (see Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 4:20, etc.). Solomon's capacious intellect is compared to the sand on the sea shore, in 1 Kings 4:29. The word translated "shore" is "lip" in the original, a word which adds to the poetry of the passage. And horses and chariots very many. Literally, many exceedingly. The Israelites appear to have held cavalry and chariots in great awe (see Exodus 14:18, and the song of triumph in Exodus 15; cf. also Joshua 17:16, 18; Judges 1:19; Judges 4:3). In later times they appear to have become more used to them. See, for instance, 1 Samuel 13:5, where the historian gives their number, large as it was, instead of regarding it as past all computation. This battle must have taken place on level ground, or the chariots would have been useless. Accordingly the historian fixes its scene on the banks of "the waters of Merom," where such ground is to be found - another instance of his historical accuracy (see Vandevelde, Journey 2:413, who places the battle on the great plain southwest of the latter). The use of chariots in battle dates from an early period. Homer's heroes are described as driven to battle in them. But perhaps the scythe chariots are here meant, which are not found on early Egyptian monuments, but which Xenophon in his Cyropaedia says were introduced By Cyrus. We find them, however, in use in Britain, in the days of Julius Caesar, and they could hardly have obtained the idea from the Persians. Potter (Antiquities, bk. 3. ch. 1.) says that they were gradually abandoned when they were found more dangerous to those who used them than to the enemy. That this kind of chariot is here meant seems pretty certain from the alarm they caused. No such alarm would have been caused by chariots simply used to convey the chieftains to the fight (see Gesenius, s.v. Xenophon, Cyr. 6:4; and 2 Macc. 13:2). All their hosts. The LXX. reads מַלְכֵיהֶמ their kings, for מַחֲנֵיהֶם.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And they went out,.... The several kings and people sent to; these went out from the places they inhabited:
they and all their hosts with them; the kings of those several places, with their armies:
much people, even as the sand that is upon the seashore in multitude; a proverbial expression, to denote an exceeding great number:
with horses and chariots very many; being supplied with horses from Egypt, and their chariots were chariots of iron; see Judges 4:3; Josephus (z) gives us the number of this great army, and says it consisted of three hundred thousand footmen, ten thousand horse, and thirty thousand chariots; some copies read only twenty thousand; and these chariots were armed with iron hooks or scythes, to cut down men as they drove along, and so were very terrible.
(z) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 18.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
4, 5. they went out, … as the sand that is upon the sea-shore in multitude—The chiefs of these several tribes were summoned by Jabin, being all probably tributary to the kingdom of Hazor. Their combined forces, according to Josephus, amounted to three hundred thousand infantry, ten thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand war chariots.
with horses and chariots very many—The war chariots were probably like those of Egypt, made of wood, but nailed and tipped with iron. These appear for the first time in the Canaanite war, to aid this last determined struggle against the invaders; and "it was the use of these which seems to have fixed the place of rendezvous by the lake Merom (now Huleh), along whose level shores they could have full play for their force." A host so formidable in numbers, as well as in military equipments, was sure to alarm and dispirit the Israelites. Joshua, therefore, was favored with a renewal of the divine promise of victory (Jos 11:6), and thus encouraged, he, in the full confidence of faith, set out to face the enemy.
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