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.


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