Tag Archives: Israelites

Joshua 11-12: Battle fear with faith

chariot-1151742_960_720As we walk through the book of Joshua, Chapter 11 validates God’s decision to appoint Joshua to be the leader of the people of Israel and secure the Promised Land.  After Israelite victories over the Canaanite factions in central and southern Canaan, war again appears on the horizon.  Jabin, king of Hazor, is furious and filled with hatred.  He gathers the northern Canaanite kings together to form a massive coalition army intending to rid the land of the Israelites once and for all.

Hazor was a massive city of some 200 acres compared to Jericho which was less than 10 acres.  Hazor was located on a main trade route, which runs from Syria to Egypt.  The Canaanite army had a massive numerical and technological edge, yet the power of God shines brightly (Deuteronomy 20:1). Josephus, a Jewish historian, records the size of the force facing Joshua is 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 chariots.

“The LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel.”” Joshua 11:6

To engage the enemy, Joshua has to march his army for five days over difficult terrain.  When he arrives he finds the enemy forces bogged down in a now flooded plain. Joshua attacks.  Any tactical advantage Jabin planned to use was washed away by a flood. Joshua routes the Canaanite army, pursuing remnants of the fleeing enemy to the east and west.  The war was not over however.  Joshua reassembles his army and attacks the northern cities, decimating them.  

We need to remember the Bible gives us a condensed account of this war. In reality the war with the Canaanites lasted a long time (Exodus 23:29-30; Deuteronomy 7:22).  The war included a battle against the Anakites to the south, the “incredible hulks of the land of Canaan.” (D.R. Davis). These were the same giants that discouraged ten of the twelve Israelite spies some forty years earlier.  “Who can stand against them”, they asked, shaking with fear.

Though the descendants of Anakin were defeated by Joshua, a few of them remained in the Philistine cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. David would later fight Goliath from hailed from Gath.

The listing of conquered kings in chapter 12 appears to be a boring account, but it demonstrates in detail the complete fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21).

What can be learned from this scripture passage?  When you face giant problems, don’t focus on how big they are, instead focus on your faith. Rob fear of its victory.  And when you pray remember to give God detailed praise for all the blessings He has bestowed on you.

 

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Joshua 10: A very long day

asteroids-1017666_960_720By now the Israelites have demonstrated a pattern of military success.  Jericho and Ai were conquered.  They entered into a treaty with five Gibeonite cities.  Why was the Canaanite king Adoni Zadek so upset with the Gibeonite treaty (v2)? The security of his city was being threatened. Strategically the Israelites controlled a swath of land through the center of the Canaan, splitting the land in two .

Adoni Zadek seeks to quell his fury by attacking the Gibeonites.  He talks four other Canaanite kings into leaving their fortified cities and camp out in the open to fight against the Gibeonites (v7). Rather than let the Gibeonites pay for their earlier deception, Joshua honors the treaty and marches his troops all night over difficult terrain to engage the Canaanites in battle (v9).  The Israelites and the Gibeonites fight all five northern kings in open terrain rather than in secure fortified cities.

God is the warrior here.  He proclaims he has given the enemy into Joshua’s hands.  God throws the enemy into a panic when the battle begins and then sends great stones from heaven down upon the fleeing armies (10, 11).

The miracle of prayer – Joshua prays with great faith asking God to cause the sun and moon to stand still. It should be noted that the sun and moon were principle deities of the Canaanites and any disturbance in their orbits or times would cause fear and panic among them. God listens to Joshua’s prayer and fights for Israel.  The extended day enables the five northern kings to be completely defeated (v13, 14).

Lest we consider the account of the long day of Joshua to be a fable, one has to consider that the Inca’s, Aztec’s, Babylonian’s, Persian’s, Chinese and other ancient cultures make mention of singular long day event.  Did the earth stop spinning?  No. More likely the earth was tilted several degrees on it’s axis making one day longer than all the others.

The Israelite army marches south and six more towns (v28).  When Joshua and his army return home to Gilgal, they have effectively quelled any major threats from the surrounding countryside but they have yet to completely occupy all the land of Canaan (see Judges chapter 1).

After reading this account in Joshua chapter 10, one has to be puzzled as to why a loving God would instruct his people to kill all the Canaanites in their battles.  It’s certainly not because the Israelites were faultless or more spiritual than the Canaanites, they were far from perfect.  They did worship the living God.  When the Israelites turned their backs on Him they often paid of severe price, even.  This very land would be taken from them many centuries later.  On the other hand, the Canaanite pagan worship practices were very dark.  Their worship demeaned and degraded human life, which included child sacrifice and sexual exploitation of older children.

Today, Jesus Christ is the advocate of those who follow his teaching.  I am reminded of a saying I once heard, “God and you are always a majority” not matter what the odds are.

[For] If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

Joshua 9: the ruse

potion-1860939_960_720Chapter nine of Joshua features the people of Gibeon.  The Israelites have miraculously crossed the Jordan River on dry land and defeated Jericho and Ai.  Word of the mighty works of God (v9) spread to the surrounding Canaanite towns.  A call went out for the Canaanites to set aside their differences and unite militarily.  The Gibeonites ignored the call, fearing they would be the next ones to be wiped out (v24).  They came up with a ruse intending to secure a peace treaty with the Israelites.  

The Gibeonites offer convincing proof that they are from a far off land showing the Israelites their moldy bread, old wine, worn out clothes as proof.  “We have traveled far,” they said.  The Israelites fell for the ruse and swore an oath.  Unknowingly they made a peace treaty with their neighbors.

God was never consulted before they swore an oath to strangers?  When the ruse was exposed, the Gibeonites were not killed but subjected to a life of servitude carrying water and cutting wood in tabernacle service.

How many of us have resorted to a ruse as a means to avoid trouble.  Ruses often become yokes, which we are forced to bear indefinitely.  What is to be gained with a lie draped around one’s neck?

“The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth.”  Psalm 145:18 NLT

 

Joshua 8: Seek God first

cross-2981216__340Once the issue of Achan’s thievery is dealt with, God turns from his fierce anger and promises victory over Ai. He instructs Joshua to take the whole army into battle, which included setting up an ambush.

When the victory over Ai is secured, Joshua sets up an altar to God. The word of God is read to the people of Israel and they rededicate themselves to God. Serving and obeying God became more importance than success on the battlefield.

Centuries later Jesus offered these words,

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT

Joshua 7: Devoted things

victorian-2745_960_720Fresh off their victory over Jericho, the Israelites walked through the ruins of the city, marveling over how the mighty walls of Jericho fell as they shouted. Did thoughts such as, “We are God’s chosen no one can stand against us” creep into their heads?

As their pride swelled, trouble followed. Joshua chapter 7 recalls the second battle led by Joshua; one against Ai, which means “the ruin.” They assumed defeating Ai would be a much easier task than the battle of a heavily fortified Jericho. God wasn’t consulted on how the battle against Ai should be fought. As a result, a smaller but sufficient force set out to do battle. They were soundly defeated.

The Israelites were perplexed. Why did God allow this to happen? The hearts of the Israelites melted with fear! If word got out of their defeat, all of Canaan would descend on the Israelites and wipe them out.

As it turns out God was angry with the Israelites.  He revealed the reason for this anger to Joshua. The Israelites were not supposed to take any of the spoils of Jericho for themselves but someone did. Joshua began questioning the people, tribe by tribe, family by family. Achan from the tribe of Judah was the culprit. He buried some of the spoils devoted to God in the dirt under his tent. His words are unforgettable, “I saw them…I coveted them…I took them.” He and his family paid the ultimate price for his disobedience.

“I saw them…I coveted them…I took them.” Joshua 7:21

D. R. Davis shares this insight, “Our problem here is- sinners that we are – we don’t think breaking Yahweh’s covenant is all that big a deal.” We don’t understand the presence of sin and how it affects our relationship with a holy God.

Another thought to consider is the idea of “serpent theology” found in Genesis 3:1. The serpent’s temptation placed the emphasis on the one thing God restricted rather than all the blessings we already hold in our hands.

“Give us this day our daily bread… and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:11, 13

Joshua 5: The land that was promised

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After 40 years of talking about it, the Israelites were finally in the Promised Land.  To celebrate, they renewed their covenant with God and prepared for the new life awaiting them.  No longer desert nomads, they would become farmers and shepherds in a land flowing with milk and honey.

“The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain.”  Joshua 5:11 NIV

Their daily supply of manna suddenly stopped falling to the ground and the river Jordan once again raged at their backs.  They couldn’t retreat to the desert.  What they needed now was complete trust and obedience in God, their deliverer.  Thankfully, Joshua appeared to be connected to Him just like Moses was.   This thought seemed to put the people at ease.

Meanwhile, the people living in Jericho looked down with fear at the sight of 2 million Israelites covering the countryside.  Would their massive city walls be enough to protect them?  They had the living God on their side.  Jericho’s army shut themselves tight inside the fortified city and waited.  A showdown loomed…

“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”” Joshua 5:13 NLT

Joshua 3: Crossing the Jordan

water-872016_960_720For people of God, the Jordan River carries heavy symbolism.  If you are a churchgoer, take a quick peek in your hymnal.  You will find songs revealing the Jordan as a symbol of death.  Crossing the Jordan and reaching the Promised Land meant  entering the gates of heaven.

Some time after Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, baptism took the meaning of dying to your old self (upon immersion) and being raised to new life found in Christ (being drawn back up out of the water).

In Joshua chapter three we read the people of Israel needed to sanctify themselves before they could cross the Jordan River.  For this ancient people it involved devoting themselves completely to God and worshiping him.  God was about to perform a miracle and he wanted their undivided attention.

“Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.”” Joshua 3:5

Unlike the Red Sea crossing found in the book of Exodus, crossing the Jordan to take possession of the Promised Land required an act of faith on their part–especially by the priests.  God wasn’t going to stop the flow of the Jordan River at flood stage until their feet were in the water.  The priests, however, didn’t go into the water alone.  God was with them in the form of the ark of the covenant, which they carried.

“The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”  Joshua 3:17

Some thoughts for those who know God through his son Jesus:

  • God sometimes performs miracles at the most extreme times, often only after we step out in faith
  • How many miracles have we missed because we failed to take that first step of faith?
  • Every person passed by the ark (containing the Word of God) as they traveled through the dry riverbed. Much as every person today must encounter God to pass from death to everlasting life.
  • God will accomplish the impossible in our lives if we will trust Him.