1. Adoni-zedek -- "lord of righteousness" -- nearly synonymous with Melchizedek, "king of righteousness." These names were common titles of the Jebusite kings.
Jerusalem -- The original name, "Salem" (Ge 14:18; Ps 76:2), was superseded by that here given, which signifies "a peaceful possession," or "a vision of peace," in allusion, as some think, to the strikingly symbolic scene (Ge 22:14) represented on the mount whereon that city was afterwards built.
inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them -- that is, the Israelites; had made an alliance with that people, and acknowledging their supremacy, were living on terms of friendly intercourse with them.
2. they feared greatly -- The dread inspired by the rapid conquests of the Israelites had been immensely increased by the fact of a state so populous and so strong as Gibeon having found it expedient to submit to the power and the terms of the invaders.
as one of the royal cities -- Although itself a republic (Jos 9:3), it was large and well-fortified, like those places in which the chiefs of the country usually established their residence.
3, 4. Wherefore Adoni-zedek ... sent, ... saying, Come up unto me, and help me -- A combined attack was meditated on Gibeon, with a view not only to punish its people for their desertion of the native cause, but by its overthrow to interpose a barrier to the farther inroads of the Israelites. This confederacy among the mountaineers of Southern Palestine was formed and headed by the king of Jerusalem, because his territory was most exposed to danger, Gibeon being only six miles distant, and because he evidently possessed some degree of pre-eminence over his royal neighbors.
5. the five kings of the Amorites -- The settlement of this powerful and warlike tribe lay within the confines of Moab; but having also acquired extensive possessions on the southwest of the Jordan, their name, as the ruling power, seems to have been given to the region generally (2Sa 21:2), although Hebron was inhabited by Hittites or Hivites (Jos 11:19), and Jerusalem by Jebusites (Jos 15:63).
Jos 10:6-9. Joshua Rescues It.
6-8. the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua -- Their appeal was urgent and their claim to protection irresistible, on the ground, not only of kindness and sympathy, but of justice. In attacking the Canaanites, Joshua had received from God a general assurance of success (Jos 1:5). But the intelligence of so formidable a combination among the native princes seems to have depressed his mind with the anxious and dispiriting idea that it was a chastisement for the hasty and inconsiderate alliance entered into with the Gibeonites. It was evidently to be a struggle of life and death, not only to Gibeon, but to the Israelites. And in this view the divine communication that was made to him was seasonable and animating. He seems to have asked the counsel of God and received an answer, before setting out on the expedition.
9. Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly -- This is explained in the following clause, where he is described as having accomplished, by a forced march of picked men, in one night, a distance of twenty-six miles, which, according to the slow pace of Eastern armies and caravans, had formerly been a three days' journey (Jos 9:17).
Jos 10:10, 11. God Fights against Them with Hailstones.
10, 11. the Lord discomfited them -- Hebrew, "terrified," confounded the Amorite allies, probably by a fearful storm of lightning and thunder. So the word is usually employed (1Sa 7:10; Ps 18:13; 144:6).
and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon -- This refers to the attack of the Israelites upon the besiegers. It is evident that there had been much hard fighting around the heights of Gibeon, for the day was far spent before the enemy took to flight.
chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon -- that is, "the House of Caves," of which there are still traces existing. There were two contiguous villages of that name, upper and nether. Upper Beth-horon was nearest Gibeon -- about ten miles distant, and approached by a gradual ascent through a long and precipitous ravine. This was the first stage of the flight. The fugitives had crossed the high ridge of Upper Beth-horon, and were in full flight down the descent to Beth-horon the Nether. The road between the two places is so rocky and rugged that there is a path made by means of steps cut in the rock [Robinson]. Down this pass Joshua continued his victorious rout. Here it was that the Lord interposed, assisting His people by means of a storm, which, having been probably gathering all day, burst with such irresistible fury, that "they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword." The Oriental hailstorm is a terrific agent; the hailstones are masses of ice, large as walnuts, and sometimes as two fists; their prodigious size, and the violence with which they fall, make them always very injurious to property, and often fatal to life. The miraculous feature of this tempest, which fell on the Amorite army, was the entire preservation of the Israelites from its destructive ravages.
Jos 10:12-15. The Sun and Moon Stand Still at the Word of Joshua.
12-15. Then spake Joshua to the Lord ... and ... he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still ... and thou, Moon -- The inspired author here breaks off the thread of his history of this miraculous victory to introduce a quotation from an ancient poem, in which the mighty acts of that day were commemorated. The passage, which is parenthetical, contains a poetical description of the victory which was miraculously gained by the help of God, and forms an extract from "the book of Jasher," that is, "the upright" -- an anthology, or collection of national songs, in honor of renowned and eminently pious heroes. The language of a poem is not to be literally interpreted; and therefore, when the sun and moon are personified, addressed as intelligent beings, and represented as standing still, the explanation is that the light of the sun and moon was supernaturally prolonged by the same laws of refraction and reflection that ordinarily cause the sun to appear above the horizon, when it is in reality below it [Keil, Bush]. Gibeon ("a hill") was now at the back of the Israelites, and the height would soon have intercepted the rays of the setting sun. The valley of Ajalon ("stags") was before them, and so near that it was sometimes called "the valley of Gibeon" (Isa 28:21). It would seem, from Jos 10:14, that the command of Joshua was in reality a prayer to God for the performance of this miracle; and that, although the prayers of eminently good men like Moses often prevailed with God, never was there on any other occasion so astonishing a display of divine power made in behalf of His people, as in answer to the prayer of Joshua. Jos 10:15 is the end of the quotation from Jasher; and it is necessary to notice this, as the fact described in it is recorded in due course, and the same words, by the sacred historian (Jos 10:43).
Jos 10:16-27. The Five Kings Hanged.
16-27. these five kings ... hid themselves in a cave -- Hebrew, "the cave."
at Makkedah -- The pursuit was continued, without interruption, to Makkedah at the foot of the western mountains, where Joshua seems to have halted with the main body of his troops while a detachment was sent forward to scour the country in pursuit of the remaining stragglers, a few of whom succeeded in reaching the neighboring cities. The last act, probably the next day, was the disposal of the prisoners, among whom the five kings were consigned to the infamous doom of being slain (De 20:16, 17); and then their corpses were suspended on five trees till the evening.
24. put your feet upon the necks of these kings -- not as a barbarous insult, but a symbolical action, expressive of a complete victory (De 33:29; Ps 110:5; Mal 4:3).
Jos 10:28-42. Seven More Kings Conquered.
28-42. that day Joshua took Makkedah -- In this and the following verses is described the rapid succession of victory and extermination which swept the whole of southern Palestine into the hands of Israel. "All these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal."