Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

Joshua 11

2. Conquests in Northern Canaan

1When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he(A) sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the(B) Arabah south of(C) Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and(D) in Naphoth-dor on the(E) west, 3to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the(F) Jebusites in the hill country, and the(G) Hivites under(H) Hermon in the land of(I) Mizpah. 4And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number(J) like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

6And the LORD said to Joshua,(K) “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall(L) hamstring their horses and burn their(M) chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua and all his warriors came(N) suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. 8And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as(O) Great Sidon and(P) Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of(Q) Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. 9And Joshua did to them(R) just as the LORD said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

The string of victories which the previous chapter listed is already enough a firstfruit which Israel has tasted. The names of these kings are ironic – Jabin who is intelligent, one whom God observes; king of Hazor, a city called a ‘castle’ – a fortress against all opposition. The king of Shimron, a city of high heights, of ‘guardianship’; the king of Achshaph, a city of ‘fascination’; Naphoth-dor on the west, “uplifting of the dwelling” – these are but a few of the names which these kings are named; which these cities are known as. Yet this is all empty, pure arrogance. Like the wailing of Isaiah 16:7, these wonderful nations shall wail and mourn for themselves as their human richness is utterly destroyed and revealed for what they really are, compared to the true richness stemming from the Trinity through Israel. These empty names are like the tragedy of the Tower of Babylon in Genesis 11 as those nations sought a ‘name’ for themselves, when they could have called upon the name of the LORD.

V.4 in particular describes in detail how they were a great horde like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots, joining forces at waters of Merom, a high place, to fight. Eve here the narrator’s irony does not cease – because throughout Scripture, if there is any ‘council’ worth mentioning, it would be the council of saints and sons of God (Job 15:8; Psalm 82:1; 89:7; Jer 23:18; 23:22; 52:25; Ezekiel 13:9; all the angels surrounding Elijah – 2 Kings 6:17). Although Israel is one nation, unlike the ‘great horde like the sand on the seashore’, there is no doubt that the invisible council of the LORD is far greater than even the uncountable sand. Our reliance is not on physical might, but the headship of God. Glen Scrivener comments on this particular aspect of headship in relation to Israel within the relationship between man and wife:

“OT headship has deep military significance.  e.g. “The LORD thunders at the head of His army.” (Joel 2:11)  Our battles are with spiritual powers through prayer.  (Eph 6:10-20).  Therefore headship is being prayer warrior for your wife.  To see a ‘head’ at their most manly is to see him on his knees.”

When we saw Christ crucified, he was the man on his knees; when we saw Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, we saw the man on his knees – and this is a huge contrast to Adam in the garden of Eden, who rose up valiantly against God through taking the fruit from the tree of good and evil, standing tall and was ‘like God’ able to judge good and evil. The symbol of Christian strength therefore is not countable by worldly powers, but is other-worldly where He is made strong when we are made weak and meek. The LORD is the only shepherd of the Israelites (Psalm 23:1).

That is why in v.6 we see the promise which He makes – “You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire”, a phraseology not unlike the commandments in Exodus which all begin with “you shall”. As eschatological as these commandments are, in indicating what we shall be doing in New Creation, it is an indication that the LORD is paving the path for the Israelites so that to hamstring the enemies’ horses and burn their chariots with fire is not a possibility, but almost a triumphant inevitability. The Hebrew word for ‘hamstring’ (עקר akar) can also mean to pluck up or to root up; and this is very important given the context of v.6 talks about the enemy given to Israel as already slain. Therefore, this verse in entirety is displaying the enemies being rendered as utterly useless, to the point where neither horse nor chariot should be of any use to Israel. This in itself is also a duty of humility which the Israelites need to practice (Deuteronomy 17:16), to not own or displace everything which the enemies had possessed – especially these horses which have been used purely for war and are unclean like David’s hands which are unsuitable for the creation of His temple; ironically also unlike the great Solomon who had horded up plenty of horses against His will.

Then in v.7 we see Joshua come against them by the waters of the same high place Merom and fell upon them. LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon (“fishering/hunting”) and Misrephoth-maim (“burnings of water”); eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh (“watchtower”), the name of each location complementing context of the situation of Joshua hunting the enemies of Israel by the waters where only two verses ago they had encamped to fight Israel. In this situation where the tables have fully reversed on these Canaanites, we see Joshua fulfilling exactly what the LORD had promised (between v.7-9). It is in this joint act of Joshua’s obedience and the LORD’s promise that we see His glory displayed fully; yet even Joshua could have chosen not to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots, such simple commands which the Israelites tend more than often to compromise. Why oh why will Israel die (Ezekiel 18:31) by succumbing themselves to these worldly pleasures more often than Yeshua’s obedience which typifies that of Christ?

10And Joshua turned back at that time and captured(S) Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction;[a](T) there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction,(U) just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. 14And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every man they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15(V) Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant,(W) so Moses commanded Joshua,(X) and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

We then move on to v.10 where Jabin, the king of intelligence who was looked on by God, the king of Hazor, who was the head of all those kingdoms is finally slain by Joshua. Nothing stopped Israel. Their debacle at Ai (Joshua 7) was thankfully early on; by His providence, they experienced such discipline prior to the important battle against Jabin. Thus, only Hazor is burned, to symbolically show that if the head of all these kingdoms has lost and his proud nation burned, then all other enemies will fall. To see Satan fall like lightning (Luke 10:18) is but a foretaste of the fall of all enemies especially on the Day of Resurrection. Unlike the horses and the chariots, the spoil of these cities and the livestock are lifeless and untainted by the blood of war (v.12, 14, 15) and thus Israel, like in every other victory so far, could take their plunder while Yeshua took the breath away from Israel’s enemies. This duty resembling Christ who shall take the Spirit away from all men (not the indwelling Spirit, but the Spirit who keeps a man physically ‘alive’ just as everything in the universe is held-together through Christ – c.f. Genesis 6:3; Psalm 3:5; Colossians 1) when only the believers shall be living forever for we are no longer mortal, but the breath of life shall not dwell forever in Israel’s enemies.

Joshua 10:40-42

Joshua 11:16-20

40So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland(FH) and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining,(FI) but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41And Joshua struck them from(FJ) Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of(FK) Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time,(FL) because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43(FM) Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal. (compare this Joshua 10:40-42 with Joshua 11:16-20)

16So Joshua took all that land,(Y) the hill country and all the Negeb and(Z) all the land of Goshen(AA) and the lowland(AB) and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17(AC) from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as(AD) Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below(AE) Mount Hermon. And he captured(AF) all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18Joshua made war(AG) a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except(AH) the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20For it was the LORD’s doing(AI) to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed,(AJ) just as the LORD commanded Moses.

There is much similarity between Joshua 10:40-42 and Joshua 11:16-20, save a few more details and inclusions which are bolded in the column for chapter 11. It is in these summary lines which we see even more of God’s involvement in helping Israel gain these lands. Although the narration in itself seems to indicate the lightning-pace at which Israel is the victor, v.18 is very honest in saying that the war was made for a long time; and it is only from this macro-perspective that we see the LORD’s faithfulness. If the book of Joshua, like the books of Kings or the books of Chronicles were to hone in on every single battle, every sweat and every sorrow, then we would lose sight of what is being taught here. The book of Joshua is a book of victories, a book of harvest, chronicling the victories of Israel as long as they continue to stand firm with Christ. It is not a silent history of war; it is a proactive commentary of first-fruit, first indicated when a spy like Caleb reported faithfully; and now partially fulfilled through the reaping of the enemies’ possessions, awaiting the true and complete fulfillment in New Creation as the night shadows of the Old Testament come to dawn on the cross, and to full Day on His return.

This joy is not only shared within the Israelites, but also shared among the Gibeonites as well (v.19) who were spared and brought into battle on Israel’s side as well; just as Ruth was one of the first to welcome God into Canaan, so Gibeon is now fighting to prove her love for Yahweh, and not only feeding or exploiting the bittersweet covenant between the two nations. It is under this context that v.20 is provided – the LORD does not elect people to reprobation against the contemporary adaptation of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination; v.19 already stated that these Gibeonites chose to side with Israel. These Gibeonites are no different from the Canaanites, save that they are elected through Israel, just as the Gentiles are elected through Christ the true Israel. Why then would the LORD harden only the hearts of the other nations, but not Gibeon? This first mentioning of ‘hardening’ occurred back in Exodus when the Pharoah’s heart was hardened, but not until the latter plagues where the Pharoah was given several opportunities to repent. The hardening of their hearts is but a confirmation of the path which these enemies have consistently chosen to walk, whereupon they would be but pigs before the pearls of the gospel, no longer capable of looking on Jesus with opened eyes but condemned to a stone heart and eternal blindness (c.f. Romans 1:18-32 – the LORD giving people over to their sinful passions).

21And Joshua came at that time and cut off(AK) the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza,(AL) in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23So Joshua took the whole land,(AM) according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses.(AN) And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel(AO) according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

Who are the Anakim, from the hill country, from Hebron, Debir, Anab, Judah, and Israel? The parallel between Abram and Lot’s story has not ceased even in this chapter; while the Rephaim were also present in Abram’s victorious struggle over the pagan nations, so also the Anakim were scattered everywhere waiting to be conquered by the true giants under Yahweh’s banner. The deliberate mentioning of Anakim at the end is most fitting to this story which can be protracted to an eschatological perspective – as if Jabin was not the real enemy, the greatest antagonist, we have the sons of Anak who had caused Israel to tremble (at Hebron where Abram made an altar to Yahweh – Genesis 13:18; and where the Israelites first met them again in Numbers 13:22). However, Israel is on a victorious streak before the LORD had deemed it so. Matthew Henry puts it in perspective:

The cutting off of the sons of Anak is particularly mentioned because these had been such a terror to the spies forty years before, and their bulk and strength had been thought an insuperable difficulty in the way of the reducing of Canaan, Num_13:28, Num_13:33. Even that opposition which seemed invincible was got over. Never let the sons of Anak be a terror to the Israel of God, for even their day will come to fall. Giants are dwarfs to Omnipotence; yet this struggle with the Anakim was reserved for the latter end of the war, when the Israelites had become more expert in the arts of war, and had had more experience of the power and goodness of God. Note, God sometimes reserves the sharpest trials of his people by affliction and temptation for the latter end of their days. Therefore let not him that girds on the harness boast as he that puts it off. Death, that tremendous son of Anak, is the last enemy that is to be encountered; but it is to be destroyed, 1Co_15:26. Thanks be to God, who will give us the victory. “

Joshua 11


Finally, the tribal allotments from v.23 onwards (c.f. Deuteronomy 34:1-2 – the prophecy of the fulfillment of these allotments within Moses’ vision prior to his death) is once more an iteration of the golden time to come, that Israel is now the new ruler of their Promised Land. Indeed, the land finally had rest from war!

However, even the language of the sentence seems to purvey a sense of an ‘omen’ – instead of using the Hebrew word for Sabbath, the writer of Joshua uses a different word (שׁקט) which indicates quietness, stillness, idleness. The Sabbath in contrast is a word and a day which means celebration, a time of true rest from labour, a holy day to the LORD. However, the rest of v.23 is not necessarily ‘sanctified to the LORD; it is just an interceding time before more wars, before more trials. Two things can be stated about this:

(1) That Israel has yet to conquer all the lands and enemies until David and Solomon’s time, after which Israel continues to fight and eventually conquered by Assyria and Babylon, which is why there is no true Sabbath rest. Furthermore, the use of שׁקט instead of Sabbath has a subtle implication that the time of the Judges (to come right after Joshua) is not a time of worship, but a time when each shall do as he/she wishes.

(2) The true Sabbath rest does not come until New Creation; our Christian life to this day is a spiritual struggle against the prince of the air, and thus we can only experience temporary stillness, though we are warned against idleness because true Sabbath is not ‘rest’ from godly works (Luke 14:3).

Joshua 12

Joshua 12


List of Kings Defeated

East Side of the Jordan:

Name of Kings


Allotment (land given to…)

Sihon, king of Amorites/Heshbon (v.2-3)

Heshbon, ruled from Aroer (edge of the Valley of the Arnon), from the middle of the valley as far as river Jabbok (boundary of the Ammonites – half of Gilead) and the Arabah to the Sea of Chinneroth eastward, and in the direction of Beth-jeshimoth, to the Sea of the Arabah (Salt Sea), southward to the foot of the slopes of Pisgah

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

Og, king of Bashan (remnant of the Rephaim) (v.4-6)

Ashtaroth and Edrei, ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah and all Bashan to the boundary of the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and over half of Gilead to the boundary of Sihon (king of Heshbon).

Reubenites and Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh

West Side of the Jordan

31 Kings – their locations:
























Jokneam in Carmel


Dor in Naphath-dor


Goiim in Galilee




The image more or less provides a vaster pictorial presentation of Yeshua’s successful and unstoppable conquest. The boundaries are outlined in Numbers 32, and the displacement of the seven nations (Deuteronomy 7:1) hailing from Canaan the son of Ham in Genesis 10 is recorded explicitly in this chapter (save the Girgashites – mentioned in Joshua 3:10 and Joshua 24:11, it is likely that they were assimilated into the six other nations of Canaan since it is implied that they fought with Israel).

Furthermore, the list of kings (from left column to right column) is in the order in which they were conquered, Jericho first until the final northern alliance from Hazor onward. These 31 kings, predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy 29:23 that they were to reject Christ and His gospel:

This shows what a very fruitful country Canaan then was, which could support so many kingdoms, and in which so many kings chose to throng together rather than disperse themselves into other countries, which we may suppose not yet inhabited, but where, though they might find more room, they could not expect such plenty and pleasure: this was the land God spied out for Israel; and yet at this day it is one of the most barren, despicable, and unprofitable countries in the world: such is the effect of the curse it lies under, since its possessors rejected Christ and his gospel, as was foretold by Moses.” (Matthew Henry)

Not only this, but the land was truly as fruitful (Joshua 12:8) as Caleb had reported; as various and as beautiful a land could be. This is something which the Israelites have never tasted, from being a small family before Joseph’s time to being a wondrous mixed multitude during the Exodus, to possessing the land of thirty-one kings against their one King and LORD Whom they serve. Adam Clarke indicates that these kings possess small land and allotments in their time compared to the nations today, however I think Joshua 12 is focusing not on the size of the land but the very fact of victory over thirty-one arrogant leaders and the very euphoria of Israel’s 40 years of wilderness nearing the end day by day. Not only this, but Canaan is a thoroughly pleasing land the moment the Israelites have conquered it; but in present times, as Matthew Henry noted, it is a land riddled with incessant wars, terrorist activities, tainted by all types of heathens and persecutions against Christians by the minute. It is not the true Promised Land but a mere foretaste as Canaan is overshadowed by New Jerusalem.

Joshua 11-12: Firstfruits

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