THEME: The Northern Coalition
This week’s lessons conclude the account of the southern and northern campaigns, and show us the necessity of committed obedience to God in all things.
We already looked in some detail at the southern campaign. The northern one is given in even less detail than the southern one, although it is similar in many respects. Like the southern campaign, the one in the north is also waged against a coalition of kings who gathered together to try and repulse the Israelite conquest of Canaan. We’re told at the very beginning of chapter 11 that there was a king in the north, the king of Hazor, whose name was Jabin. He saw what was happening and decided to respond by getting together all of the forces at his disposal. So he sent out a call to all of these cities, saying that they had to get together and fight against Israel, or else they were going to suffer the same fate as the cities in the south. They amassed a great army, and they gathered together at the waters of Merom, which is a small lake just north of the Sea of Galilee. And there this great host of the kings of the north gathered together to fight against Joshua.
Now as I say, the account in Joshua 11 doesn’t tell us a great deal about this campaign. But we do know that it was a big battle because the Bible describes the opposing army as “a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore” (v. 4). But in addition to the size of the army, there was also a new element in the warfare, something that the Jewish soldiers had not encountered before. This northern army came against Israel with chariots. All the battles before this had been on foot against foot soldiers. And now suddenly there are chariots pulled by horses, capable not only of elevating the one who drove them and fought from them, but also capable of dashing suddenly into the ranks of the advancing armies and scattering them.
We’re not told that Joshua was made fearful by this sudden new piece of military warfare. But he may have been because verse 6 tells us that the Lord came to strengthen him again: “The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them because by this time tomorrow, all of them I will hand over to Israel slain.’” We’ve already seen that Joshua was a man who believed God. So he gathered his troops together, which were at Gilgal down by the Jordan River. In terms of the size and the nature of the warfare, this is perhaps the greatest of all the battles of Joshua’s distinguished military career.
The remainder of this chapter then goes on to describe how Joshua took the entire land. He killed the kings and captured the major cities. He succeeded at that point in breaking all the resistance and subduing the land. In chapter 12 there’s a review of all the battles, not merely of what happened after Joshua had crossed the Jordan, but also of the battles that had taken place under the command of Moses.
And so ended the conquest of the land of Canaan under the direction of Joshua. It was a tremendous conquest. If you put all these areas together, you find that it extends from Sidon in the north, in what is now Lebanon, and goes all the way down to Egypt in the south. And it spread from the Mediterranean to the west and well into the desert on the east. It was the entire land that God had promised He was going to give the people when He first made His promises to Abraham and repeated them throughout all the years the patriarchs lived.
The Bible does not give much information about the northern coalition, but what two things does it mention that may have caused Joshua to be afraid?
With the conclusion of the northern campaign and the mentioning of the territory now under Israel’s control, what important biblical event in the past does the lesson connect back to?
Can you recall a time when you were afraid in a situation? How did God bring encouragement and strength?