THEME: Victory in the South
This week’s lessons describe another part of the conquest of Canaan, and teach us important qualities of leadership from the life of Joshua.
Now our story picks up at that point. The routed armies were led by five kings. These five kings were apparently together directing the military operations. And when they saw the battle go against them and recognized that they were in great personal danger themselves, they hid in the cave near the town of Makkedah. And they went in to hide, thinking that in the battle the rush of the troops would pass by. Then after they had passed, the kings could emerge and make their way back to the city. They could regroup their fortresses and prepare to fight another day.
God was intervening, of course. God had already intervened in the hail storm and then in the lengthening of the day. And God intervened in this matter as well because it was discovered that the kings were hiding there. Word came to Joshua that they were there, and he directed that the cave be sealed until the battle of the day was completed as they pursued the armies to the south. And then after the battle was over, after they had done everything they could to establish a total victory over these forces from the south, he came back. He regrouped his men at Makkedah, and they brought out the kings.
Joshua had the defeated kings get down in the dust with their faces in the ground. He brought his commanders by, and he had them put their feet upon the necks of these defeated kings. And he said, “Thus will God do to all your enemies.” And then after he had given that encouragement to his commanders, he had the kings rise and then put them to death. He hung their bodies on trees till nightfall, and then, in accordance with Jewish law, he had them cut down. After this, the Israelites took Makkedah.
The remainder of the chapter goes on to tell how he conducted what we would call a “mopping-up” operation. He had already broken the back of the opposition, and the armies were defeated. Only the survivors had regrouped in the cities. But he went on south and began to attack these cities one by one. After Makkedah, he attacked Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Gezer, Hebron, and, at last, Debir. Three of those are cities over which those five kings had ruled.
It’s interesting to us, though it’s not mentioned here at all in the text, that it does not say that he attacked and destroyed Jerusalem. And that really helps to substantiate the accuracy of this narrative. You would think that if this were a story that was being made up, as some scholars have said, you would have the destruction of all five cities that had engaged in the coalition. But it does not mention Jerusalem. And the reason it doesn’t mention it is that Jerusalem, although its king had been killed, was not overthrown. As a matter of fact, Jerusalem was not taken until hundreds of years later in the time of King David. David was the one who took the city and made it his capital. And all of that is reflected here with perfect accuracy as we would expect.
As we come to the end of the chapter, we have a summation of what happened in the southern campaign. It says that Joshua subdued four regions: the hill country, the Negev, (which is the desert area to the south); the western foothills going down towards the Mediterranean Sea; and the mountain slopes. It says in verse 40, “He destroyed all who breathed just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded.” And so, the southern campaign ended.
What was the meaning behind Joshua’s treatment of the defeated kings?
What does Dr. Boice say is significant about Jerusalem not being destroyed?