Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph,Ch. Joshua 11:1-15. Confederacy of the Kings of Northern Canaan
1. And it came to pass] We now enter upon a different scene in the conquests of Joshua. Just as before Adoni-Zedek, the king of Jerusalem, had summoned the five kings of southern Canaan, so now Jabin, the king of Hazor, summons the chiefs of the north against the Israelitish leader.
Jabin] This was an hereditary and official title of the chief of Hazor. It denotes “the wise” or “intelligent” Here we find a king of the same name at a considerably later date (Jdg 4:2).
Hazor]= “enclosed,” “fortified” was an important, and apparently almost impregnable, stronghold of the Canaanites of the north, situated in the mountains, north of the waters of Merom. We find it afterwards fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15), and its inhabitants were carried away captive by Tiglath-pileser (2 Kings 15:29). The most probable site is Tell Khuraibeh. It lay apparently between Ramah and Kedesh, on the high ground overlooking the Lake of Merom.
Jobab king of Madon] The three places here mentioned, Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph, were probably in the neighbourhood of Hazor, but their sites cannot be determined. Schwarz on very slight grounds proposes to identify Madon with Kefr Menda, a village at the western end of the Plain of Buttauf, four or five miles N. of Sepphoris.
the king of Shimron] Its full name appears to have been Shimron-Meron. It was afterwards included in the tribe of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15).
the king of Achshaph] This place was afterwards included within the territory of Asher (Joshua 12:20; Joshua 19:25). It has been identified with Chaifa, a place which, from its situation, must always have been of great importance.
And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west,2. that were on the north] Or, that were “northwards in the mountains,” i.e. “the mountains of Naphtali” (Joshua 20:7), the mountainous region of Galilee.
the plains south of Cinneroth] Literally, “in the Arabah, south of Chinneroth,” i.e. the “Ghôr” of the Jordan, the northern portion of the depressed tract which extends along the Jordan from the Lake of Gennesareth southwards.
Cinneroth] or Chinnereth, or Chinneroth, was the name of a fortified town in Naphtali (Joshua 19:35), situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and giving its earliest name to that lake (Numbers 34:11).
and in the valley] “In the wild feeldis,” Wyclif; i.e. “the lowlands,” the level plain bordering the sea between Akko and Sidon.
in the borders of Dor] Rather, the highlands of Dor. Dor was an ancient royal city of the Canaanites (Joshua 12:23), situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, 14 miles south of the promontory of Carmel, and 7 north of Cæsarea. The district, of which it was the capital, was afterwards within the allotted territory of Asher, but was assigned to Manasseh (Joshua 17:11), but the Israelites could never obtain possession of this strong city (Joshua 17:12; Jdg 1:27), though they made the inhabitants pay tribute in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:11). What is here rendered “the borders of Dor,” is rendered “the coast of Dor” Joshua 12:23, and the “region of Dor” 1 Kings 4:11. The original word Napheth, thus variously translated, means an “elevated tract,” and hence a coast as being raised above the water. Dor stood on a rocky promontory, behind which lies a beautiful and fertile plain, extending southward to Sharon, and northward to Carmel. This plain is the “coast” or “region” of Dor. Dor was one of the Phœnician seats of commerce, deriving its importance from (i) its well-sheltered haven, (ii) the abundance amidst its rocks of the murex, a shell-fish yielding the famous purple dye. It was still a flourishing town in the Roman age, and afterwards became the seat of a bishop, who was, in the days of the Crusades, a suffragan in the province of Cæsarea. The modern Tantûra or Dandora is a corruption of the ancient name. It is now represented by a little fishing village, consisting of some thirty houses, while the site of the old city lies to the north of it, covered for a space of half a mile with massive ruins.
And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.3. and to the Canaanite] Not satisfied with summoning to his banner the tribes of the north, Jabin extended his “war-token” to the remnants of the defeated tribes of the south too; (a) the Canaanites, or “lowlanders” of the east and west; (b) the Amorites, or “highlanders” of the south; (c) the Hittites; (d) the Perizzites; (e) the Jebusites, from the still unconquered Jebus; (f) the Hivites under the snowy heights of Hermon, the most beautiful and conspicuous mountain in Palestine or Syria. For the distribution of these various nations see note above, ch. Joshua 3:10.
in the land of Mizpeh] Mizpeh means “prospect” or “watch-tower.” It has the article here = “the Land of the Watch-Tower.” There were several places in Palestine bearing this name. This Mizpeh was probably in a plain stretching south-west at the foot of Hermon, where now is situated the village of Metullah, which also means “the look-out,” or “look-down,” perched on a hill 200 feet high, south of Lake Merom, and commanding a splendid view. This Mizpeh (= “Belle Vue” amongst ourselves) must not be confounded with the Mizpeh of Gilead (Joshua 13:26); nor with the Mizpeh of Judah (Joshua 15:38); nor yet with that of Moab (1 Samuel 22:3).
And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.4. And they went out] “As the British chiefs were driven to the Land’s End before the advance of the Saxon, so at this Land’s End of Palestine were gathered for this last struggle, not only the kings of the north in the immediate neighbourhood, but from the desert valley of the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee, from the maritime plain of Philistia, from the heights above Sharon, and from the still unconquered Jebus.” Stanley, Lectures, 1:259.
as the sand] “as the grauel that is in the brenk of the see,” Wyclif. Comp. the description (a) of the hosts of the Midianites and Amalekites in the time of Gideon (Jdg 7:12); and (b) of the Philistines in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 13:5).
with horses and chariots very many] These now for the first time appear in Canaanite warfare, and “it was the use of these which probably fixed the scene of the encampment by the lake, along whose level shores they could have full play for their force.”
And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.5. at the waters of Merom] i.e. “the Upper Waters;” the uppermost of the three lakes in the Jordan valley, called by the Greeks “Semechonitis,” or Samochonitis (Jos. Ant. 5:5. 1), and by the Arabs “Hûleh.” The lake is formed by the expansion of the descending Jordan, about 7 miles long by 5 in breadth, of a triangular shape, the point being at the south, where the Jordan, which enters it on the north, again quits it. It is surrounded by marshes and numberless streams bordered with thickets of papyrus. For the fullest and most graphic description of this lake, and the surrounding morasses, see Macgregor’s Rob Roy on the Jordan, xii.—xvii.
And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.6. And the Lord said] We may believe that Joshua was already some way on the march when these encouraging words were addressed to him. The distance from his encampment to the waters of Merom was too great for him to reach the latter place between one day and the next.
thou shalt hough their horses] So especially formidable to the Israelites, who had none. The word “hough” also occurs in 2 Samuel 8:4, where we read that David “houghed all the chariot horses.” It comes from the A. S. hoh, and means to cut the ham-strings or back sinews of cattle, so as to disable them and render them utterly unfit for use, since the sinew, once severed, can never be healed again, and as a rule the arteries are cut at the same time, so that the horses bleed to death. In the late version of Wyclif the verse is rendered, “Thou shalt hoxe the horsis of hem,” while in the earlier version it runs, “The hors of hem thow shalt kut of the synewis at the knees” “Hox” is the form found in Shakespeare,
“If thou inclin’st that way, thou art a coward;
Which hoxes honesty behind, restraining
From course requir’d”. Winter’s Tale, 1. 2. 243.
The Scotch hoch is used in the same way.
and burn their chariots] of which it is said (Joshua 17:18) that they were iron chariots, i.e. had wheels with iron tires. Scythe-chariots were first introduced by Cyrus: Xen. Cyrop. VI. 1. 30.
So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them.7. So Joshua came] With the suddenness and rapidity which characterized all his movements, he did not wait for the northern confederacy to attack him at Gilgal, but marched against them with the intention of coming upon them before their army could be got into order.
against them suddenly] He fell upon them, like a thunderbolt, so the word is to be literally understood as in the corresponding passage in Job 1:15, “the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away.” Without a word of warning he burst upon them in the mountain slopes of the plain, before they had time to rally on the level ground.
And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining.8. and chased them] The rout was complete, and the fugitives seem to have divided into three parts—
(a) unto great Zidon] One party took the road north-west over the mountains above the gorge of the Leontes “to Sidon,” or, as it is distinguished here and in Joshua 19:28, “the great Sidon,” as being the metropolis of Phœnicia. This it had ceased to be before the reign of David, by which time its sister city Tyre had eclipsed it in splendour, and taken the first place amongst the cities of Phœnicia. At the present day Sidon, Saida, is again larger than Tyre. The former contains 5000 or 6000 inhabitants and many large houses built of stone, whereas the present Sur is nothing but a market town, the houses of which are little more than huts.
(b) unto Misrephoth-maim] A second party took the road, west, and south-west, to Mizrephoth-maim, which is interpreted either (i) as “the warm springs,” or (ii) “the salt-pits,” or (iii) “the smelting-pits by the waters,” the glass-houses, of which there were several in the neighbourhood of Sidon.
(c) and unto the valley of Mizpeh] A third party fled eastward unto the Buka’a or “valley” of Mizpeh at the foot of Hermon. The eastward direction is spoken of in reference to Sidon.
and they smote them] But wherever they fled, they were hotly pursued by the Israelites, who captured their cities one by one, put the inhabitants to death, and carried away the booty and cattle.
And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.9. he houghed their horses] “he kuttide the sinewis at the knee,” Wyclif. The command, to render the horses useless, was intended to lead Israel not to place its confidence in horses and chariots (Psalm 20:7; Psalm 147:10), and wisely incapacitated them from extending their conquests beyond the borders of Canaan. See Deuteronomy 17:16.
And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms.10. turned back] Far over the western hills Joshua pursued the flying hosts before he “turned back,” and took Hazor, and because of its prominence as the chief city of these petty northern kingdoms, burned it with fire.
And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.
And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded.12. as Moses the servant of the Lord commanded] See Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16-17.
But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn.13. the cities that stood still in their strength] Rather, the cities which stood each on its own hill, or mound, “the citees that weren in the hillis, and in the hillockis set,” Wyclif. Comp. Jeremiah 30:18, “and the city shall be builded upon her own heap” (“little hill” margin). With the exception of Hazor, Joshua did not burn the cities, but left them standing, each on its own hill, the ordinary site for cities in Canaan. Comp. Matthew 5:14.
And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe.14. all the spoil] This was not devoted as at Jericho, but divided as at Ai. Comp. Joshua 8:2; Joshua 8:27.
As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.15. As the Lord commanded Moses] For this command of God to Moses comp. (a) Exodus 34:11-16; (b) Numbers 33:51-54; (c) Deuteronomy 20:16; and for the transference of the command to Joshua comp. (a) Numbers 27:18-23; (b) Deuteronomy 3:21.
he left nothing undone] “he passide not beside of alle the maundementis,” Wyclif. Conscientiousness in carrying out the Divine commands is thus represented as a prominent feature in Joshua’s character.
So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same;16–20. General Retrospect of the Conquest of Palestine
16. So Joshua took] The sacred writer pauses to survey and sum up the conquests of the Israelitish leader.
the hills] The country is contemplated under a sevenfold division, (i) the cities; (ii) the south country; (iii) the land of Goshen (comp. Joshua 10:41); (iv) the valley; (v) the plain; (vi) the mountain of Israel; (vii) the valley of the same.
Even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them.17. even from the mount Halak] Or, as it is rendered in the margin, “the smooth mountain,” or “the bald mountain.” We find this name only once again, viz. in Joshua 12:7, and there, as here, it seems to mark the southern limit of Joshua’s conquests. Several ranges near the southern border of Canaan might be thus described. (a) Some would identify it with the modern Jebel-el-Mukrah, 60 miles south of the Dead Sea; (b) others with the mountain Madurah, or Maderah; (c) while others would identify it with the range of white cliffs, which cuts the Arabah obliquely at about eight English miles to the south of the Dead Sea, and divides the great valley into the two parts El Ghor and El Arabah. This row of cliffs, which is about 60 to 80 feet high, might very well be called “the bald mountain which ascends to Seir,” for it was a point well adapted to form the southern boundary of Canaan, since it both touches the territory of Kadesh-Barnea, and joins in the east the upper chain of the mountains of Seir.—See Keil in loc.
even unto Baal-Gad] This was a town dedicated to Baal, under the aspect of “Gad” or the “god of good fortune” (Joshua 12:7; Joshua 13:5), probably the same as Baal-Hermon (Jdg 3:3; 1 Chronicles 5:23). In later times it was known as Panium or Paneas, and when enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, Cæsarea Philippi, to distinguish it from Cæsarea “Palestinæ” or Cæsarea “on the sea” (Mark 8:27). Dean Stanley calls it a Syrian Tivoli, and certainly there is much in the rocks, caverns, cascades, and the natural beauty of the scenery, to recall the Roman Tibur. Behind the village, in front of a great natural cavern, a river bursts forth from the earth, the “upper source” of the Jordan. Inscriptions and niches in the face of the cliff tell of the old idol worship of Baal and of Pan. Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 581.
Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.18. a long time] “Myche time,” Wyclif. Five years at least. Caleb was 40 years old when Moses sent him out of Kadesh-Barnea as a spy, and 80 years old when, on the conquest of the land, he received his portion at the hands of Joshua. Thus 45 years had elapsed since the former date, of which 40, or 38, had been spent in the wanderings of the wilderness. The campaigns of Joshua must therefore have occupied at least five or seven years for their accomplishment.
There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle.19. save the Hivites] Gibeon had surrendered peacefully (Joshua 9:3; Joshua 9:7; Joshua 9:15; Joshua 10:1; Joshua 10:6). All the rest were taken in battle.
For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.20. For it was of the Lord] “Forsothe the sentence of the Lord it was,” Wyclif. Compare Exodus 4:21, “When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go;” and Exodus 7:3, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt;” Joshua 14:4; Romans 9:17. Here, as everywhere in Scripture where such hardening is spoken of, it is to be carefully borne in mind, that it is always inflicted as a judgment on those who had previously acted contrary to the Divine will. This is true of
(a) Pharaoh, who had grievously and cruelly oppressed the Israelites for his own selfish ends;
(b) The Canaanites, who had persisted in the lowest and most degrading idolatry and sensuality;
(c) The Israelites, who in spite of warning and example fell away into idolatry in like manner, and forgat the Lord, Who had done such great things for them (Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:12-15).
The same is in a measure said of Sihon king of the Amorites (Deuteronomy 2:30); of Samson (Jdg 14:4); of the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 2:25); of Solomon (1 Kings 12:15); of Ahaziah (2 Chronicles 22:7); of Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:16; 2 Chronicles 25:20). It is expressed also in the Latin proverb, “Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat.”
And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities.21–23. Extermination of the Anakims
21. at that time] That is, in the course of the “long time,” the seven years spoken of in Joshua 11:18. We have now a supplementary notice of the destruction of the Anakims, and a general conclusion substantially as given in Joshua 11:16.
the Anakims] In Numbers 13:22 we are told of the spies that they “ascended by the south and came unto Hebron; where Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were,” and when this was reported to the Israelites, and they heard of “the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants, in whose sight the spies seemed as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33), “all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried, and murmured against Moses and against Aaron” (Numbers 14:1-2). The sacred writer therefore now goes back to record pointedly this terrible race, who had inspired such faithless murmuring and complaint (comp. Deuteronomy 9:2). It has been concluded by some that these giants were a tribe of Cushite wanderers from Babel, and of the same race as the Philistines, the Phœnicians, and the Egyptian shepherd-kings, representing one or more families of Amorite descent, distinguished for their lofty stature and physical powers. Thus Og, king of Bashan, is described as of the “remnant of the giants” (Deuteronomy 3:11). In Abraham’s time (Genesis 14:5-6) they inhabited the territories afterwards known as Edom and Moab, and the region east of Jordan, under the names of (a) Rephaims, (b) Zuzims or Zamzummims, (c) Emims, and (d) Horites. Here they were attacked by Chedorlaomer, the Elamite king, who also smote the Amorites of Engedi in the Jordan valley. Subsequently the Horites were conquered by the Edomites, the Emims and the Zuzims by the Moabites and Ammonites, while the remnant, to which Og king of Bashan belonged, was destroyed by the Israelites under Moses. Now, as under Moses on the east, so under Joshua on the west of Jordan, the Anakims were driven forth before the arms of Israel.
from Hebron] Which from the progenitor of this race received its original name of Kirjath-Arba. See above on Joshua 10:3.
from Debir] See Joshua 10:38.
from Anab] A town in the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:50). It has retained its ancient name, and lies among the hills about 10 miles S. S. W. of Hebron, close to Shoco and Eshtemoa. See Robinson’s Bib. Researches, I. 494 and II. 195, who from Main (the Maon of Scripture) preserved a place of this name, distinguished by a small tower.
the mountains of Judah] A distinction is here made between “the mountains of Judah,” and “the mountains of Israel.” This, strange as it may seem, affords one of the undesigned evidences of the early composition of the Book of Joshua. “When Judah entered on his possession, all the other tribes were still in Gilgal (Joshua 14:6; Joshua 15:1). Afterwards, when Ephraim and Manasseh entered on theirs, all Israel, except Judah, were camped in Shiloh (Joshua 16:1; Joshua 18:1), these two possessions being separated by the still unallotted territory which later was given to Benjamin (Joshua 18:11). What more natural than that the mountain given to ‘the children of Judah’ should have been called ‘the mountain of Judah,’ and that where all the rest of Israel camped ‘the mountain of Israel,’ and also ‘the mountain of Ephraim’ (Joshua 19:50; Joshua 20:7), because it was afterwards given to that tribe?” Dr Edersheim’s Israel in Canaan, p. 86.
There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained.22. only in Gaza] See above, Joshua 10:41.
in Gath] One of the five royal cities of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17), and the native place of the giant Goliath, who, though doubtless of the old stock of the Anakims (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:18-20), is called a Philistine, shewing that in David’s time the two races had coalesced and become one. Gath occupied a strong position (2 Chronicles 11:8), on the border of Judah and Philistia (1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Chronicles 18:1) near Shoco and Adullam (2 Chronicles 11:8), and from its strength and resources formed the key of both countries.
and in Ashdod] Ashdod or Azotus (Acts 8:40) was situated about 30 miles from the southern frontier of Palestine, three from the Mediterranean Sea, and nearly midway between Gaza and Joppa. It was assigned to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:47), but was never subdued by the Israelites, and even down to Nehemiah’s age it preserved its distinctiveness of race and language (Nehemiah 13:23-24). It was the city of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1-7), and against it, as against Gaza, the prophets often direct their denunciations (Jeremiah 25:20; Amos 1:8; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:6).
So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.23. And the land rested from war] But this does not denote a permanent cessation. It rather implies that the Israelites no longer needed to war unitedly against the Canaanites. There was yet much land to be possessed, but the time had arrived for the occupation of the country by the different tribes, and the completion of the work of conquest was now to be left to the separate action of each.