Thursday, September 30, 2004

Joshua 15

Next we are presented with the distribution of land to Israel's largest tribe. One problem is immediately obvious. The western boundary of their territory is given as the coastline, which would be held by the Philistines for many years to come.

The story of Caleb's claim to Hebron is repeated, and we learn that Debir was taken by Othniel. There is a vignette by which Caleb's daughter Acsah gains not merely a field but springs to water it. In rabbinical literature, Caleb is thought to have married Miriam ( We also learn that Caleb indicates "dog," so this may have been the clan symbol. In rabbinical literature, Caleb's son Hur was martyred for reproving the Israelites (

Matthew Henry points out that the catalog of villages and towns in Jos. 15:21-32 is agley ( Thirty eight locations are named, but said to be 29 towns and villages. Nine are transferred to Simeon in Jos. 19:2.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Joshua 14

As the previous chapter established the inheritance east of the Jordan as laid down by Moses, this chapter establishes the inheritance west of the Jordan as laid down by Joshua, Eleazar the priest and the heads of the tribes.
In this chapter, we learn that the conquest of Canaan to this point has taken five years, since Caleb says he was 40 when he first scouted out the land and now, after 40 years in the desert, he is 85.

As reward, Caleb is granted the Anakite hill town of Hebron and he promises to drive out other Anakite groups. Hebron is associated with Mamre, the site of Abraham's grave (

We are told that Caleb is a Kennizite, apparently descended from Kenaz (,, making him a descendant of Esau and not an Israelite. Thus it would seem that the original promise of God to Abraham in Gen. 15:18 has been somewhat modified.

We are told the land then had rest from war, but this appears not to be the case. Rather, it seems the Israelites have sown themselves into a field of brambles and will spend many years subjugating the other peoples yet undefeated.

Joshua 13

This chapter reconfirms the inheritance granted on the east of the Jordan by Moses and excludes Levi from ownership of any land.

We are told that Joshua is old and that huge areas remain unconquered. Indeed, even by the time of Saul, the coastal region from Gaza to Tyre and north, Moab, Edom, Aram, and Ammon would remain contested.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Joshua 12

This chapter reviews the conquered territory. Under Moses' command, the Israelites conquered the lands east of the Jordan, while under Joshua, they conquered lands west of the Jordan, ultimately providing a portion to each tribe (

For Joshua's victories, the text enumeratesthe kings slain, and adds what would seem to be the gratuitous notation "one" after each king. Yet, this has the several effects. First, the list is sequential, so it leads the reader along the path of the victory. And, by enumerating each king slain, it has the effect of making each victory as glorious as every other victory. Finally, it makes the point that victories are won, one by one, with failure possible at every step.

There are some interesting internal discrepancies to the tale of the conquest. ( For example, Debir was reported as being taken in Jos. 10:38, with no survivors left. Yet in Jos. 15: 16-17, it is Othniel under the command of Caleb who takes the city. And in Joshua 11:21, it is apparently destroyed yet again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Joshua 11

This chapter introduces an interesting military issue that will recur: the use of chariots in fighting in the level places, a skill which the Israelites lacked and suffered sorely from that lack. But, thanks to God's assistance, Joshua surprises the cavalry while it is resting by the Waters of Merom and routs them. The Israelites capture the horses, but rather than using them or eating them, they hamstring them.

The battles of this chapter occur in the far north of Israel, in areas near the Syrian and Lebanese borders and including the important port city of Tyre. This part of Israel will be occupied by the clans of Asher and Naphthali.

Finally, Joshua completes the conquest of the south, not however managing to take the coastal cities of Gaza and Ashdod, or Gath, cities that will later prove to be thorns in the side of the Israelites. Jerusalem remains unconquered. Indeed, it will gradually develop that rather than subduing Canaan, the Israelites have grasped a tiger by the tail and will be harried from all sides, with occasional victories under the judges, until they unify under David (

In this chapter, we are told that God Himself hardened the hearts of the Canaanites, inciting them to attack Israel. This is as close an answer as we will get to the genocide.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Joshua 10

Alarmed by the alliance between the Gibeonites and the Israelites, five Amorite kings, those of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon form an alliance. With God's assurance of victory, the Israelites march all night (26 miles, according to Jamieson, uphill and over hilly terrain; typically a three-day journey) from Gilgal to Gibeon and rout the Amorites. God rains down deadly hailstones to assist the Israelites.

The slaughter is going so well that Joshua prays that both sun and moon stand still so that the victory can be complete. God hears the prayer, and holds the sun and moon in place for a full day. The Israelites pursue the Amorites first toward the northwest toward Beth Horon and then southwest to Azekah. The five kings, who have been held trapped in a cave at Makkedah (near Azekah and far to the south and west of Jerusalem) are executed and left hanging on trees during the day. Joshua takes Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish (where they kill Gezer's king), Eglon, Hebron, and Debir. He kills everyone in these cities and crucifies the kings.

Matthew Henry points out that the name of the king of Jerusalem, Adoni-zadek means "lord of righteousness" and suggests he might have been a descendant of Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham (Gen. 14). Jerusalem is the same as Salem. with Jerusalem meaning "vision of peace" or "peaceful possession" according to Jamieson.

Joshua's prayer is not phrased as a request, but as an order to the sun and moon, using the same Hebrew word, amar, as God uses in Genesis at the creation of the world. Henry ascribes this command the weight of a prophetic utterance.

Note that an extrabiblical source, the book of Jashar is mentioned. Jasher may mean "upright." Extant works called "Book of Jashar" are believed to be recent inventions.

Note also that if the text is followed literally, Joshua marches back to Gilgal and then returns to Makkedah before executing the kings. Since the army had marched for a night and fought continuously for perhaps 24 hours, it seems implausible that they should have marched another 12 hours and then taken the even longer trip to Makkedah. Indeed, Joshua seals the kings in the cave specifically to continue the pursuit and prevent the Amorite fighters from reaching their cities.

One interesting point is that as the army returns to Makkedah to execute the kings, the text says that "no one uttered a word against the Israelites." It's unclear who might do so, except perhaps the Gibeonites.