The Word Made Fresh
1Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had destroyed Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how Gibeon had made peace with Israel and seemed to have joined them. 2He was very afraid. Gibeon was a large city like one of the royal cities, larger than Ai, and its men were all warriors. 3He sent messages to king Hoham of Hebron, king Piram of Jarmuth, king Japhia of Lachish, and king Debir of Eglon. 4“Come join me,” he said. “Let’s attack Gibeon because they have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”
5Then the five Amorite kings – from Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon – joined forces and attacked Gibeon. The people of Gibeon sent word to Joshua, who was encamped at Gilgal. “Don’t abandon us,” they begged. “Come quickly and save us. Help us against the Amorite kings of the hill country; they have come to attack us.”
7So, Joshua and all his armed men came from Gilgal. 8The LORD told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid of them. I will hand them over to you and not a single one of them will be able to stop you.” 9Joshua attacked the Amorites suddenly after having marched from Gilgal all night. 10The LORD sent panic into their enemies, and Israel slaughtered them at Gibeon and chased them through the pass at Beth-Horon, striking them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11They ran from the Israelites, and when they fled from Beth-Horon the LORD rained large hailstones on them as far as Azekah. More of them died from the hail than were killed by the Israelites.
12On that day Joshua spoke to the LORD, and all Israel heard him say, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon! Moon, stay over the valley of Aijalon!” 13And the sun and moon stood still while Israel defeated their enemies.
This was recorded in the book of Jashar. The sun halted in the sky and did not set for a whole day. 14There has never been a day like it before or since, when the LORD listened to a man’s voice and fought for Israel.
15After this, Joshua and all his men returned to Gilgal.
16The five kings fled to the cave at Makkedah and hid there. 17When Joshua was told they had gone there, 18he said, “Roll stones over the cave’s entrance, and set a guard there. 19But the rest of you continue after the enemy and attack them from the rear. Don’t let them re-enter their towns. The LORD your God has given them into your hands.”
20Joshua and the Israelites continued their attack and wiped them out except for a handful of survivors who made it back to their walled towns. 21All the Israelites returned safely to Joshua at Makkedah, and after that no one dared utter a word against the Israelites.
22Then Joshua said, “Remove the stones from the cave’s mouth and bring those five kings out to me.” 23They brought them all out; the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. 24Then Joshua called the Israelites together, and told the leaders of the soldiers who had gone with him, “Come and plant your feet on the necks of these kings,” and they did so. 25Joshua said, “Don’t be afraid of them, and don’t worry. Be strong. Be brave. This is what the LORD will do to all the enemies you encounter.”
26Then Joshua had them executed and hung them on five trees until the evening. 27At sunset he ordered them to be taken down and thrown into the cave where they had hidden, and large stones were placed against the cave’s mouth, and are there to this very day.
28Joshua also took the city of Makkedah that day, striking down every person in it with the sword, and did to the king of Makkedah as he had done with the king of Jericho. 29From Makkedah Joshua and Israel attacked Libnah. 30The LORD gave Libnah and its king to Israel and they put every person in it to the sword until no one remained, and the king of Libnah suffered the same fate as the king of Jericho.
31From Libnah, Joshua led his forces to Lachish and assaulted it. 32They took it in two days, for the LORD had given it to them. They struck down everyone in it with the sword as they had done at Libnah. 33Horam, king of Gezer, tried to come to the aid of Lachish, and Joshua struck him down and left no survivors.
34From Lachish, Joshua led Israel to Eglon. They laid siege to it and attacked it 35and took it in a day and killed everyone in it as they had at Lachish.
36Then Joshua led the people to Hebron and attacked it. 37They took it with the sword; its king, and all its outlying towns. They killed everyone in Hebron as they had done at Eglon.
38Then Joshua and the Israelites turned back and attacked Debir. 39He took it with its king and all the outlying towns and struck all of them down with the sword until no one was left, just as had been done at Hebron, and Lachish with its king, and Debir with its king.
40So, Joshua conquered the land, including the hill country, the Negeb, the lowlands, and all their kings. No one was left. He killed all of them as the LORD God of Israel had ordered. 41Joshua defeated them from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza and all the territory of Goshen as far as Gibeon. 42He took all these kings and their territories at one time because the LORD God fought for Israel. 43Then Joshua and the Israelites returned to their camp at Gilgal.
1-5: The last chapter began with notice that an anti-Israel alliance was being formed. Now we learn the identity of the allies – the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. They lay siege to Gibeon.
6-11: The Gibeonites send to Joshua for help. Joshua responds by marching his army overnight to Gibeon and attacking the Canaanite Alliance by surprise, routing them and sending them into a wild retreat.
12-14: The legend of the sun standing still (verses 12-14) actually doesn’t read like a miracle at all. The sun “did not hurry to set for about a whole day,” says the text. But isn’t that the case with the sun every day? Still, in Israel’s memory the day seemed to last longer than usual, long enough for Israel to defeat a powerful alliance in a single day. More to the point, perhaps, the longer-than-usual day and Israel’s sterling victory is credited to Joshua.
15-21: The five kings hide in a cave. Joshua turns the cave into a jail until the battle is over.
22-27: After the battle Joshua returns to Makkedah and executes the five kings. He has “the chiefs of the warriors” put their feet on the necks of the five kings. This symbolic act serves two purposes: first, to show that they have authority over the five kings; and second (and perhaps most important) that Joshua has authority over the chiefs of Israel. When it’s all over, Joshua has them pile up a bunch of stones, of course.
28-43: Another important shift is happening in this chapter. Israel’s conquest of the land began with offensive maneuvers. Now the conquest of the land is depicted as Israel defending itself against the offensive of Canaanite kings. The attack of the five kings is then seen as an opening for Israel in turn and sweep through the south of Canaan (in verses 29-39) and take the whole land that had belonged to the five kings plus some other towns not mentioned before. By the end of the chapter, the entire southern portion of the land is in Joshua’s hands.
One little footnote: in spite of the report that Israel slaughtered entire populations, it is obvious as we continue to read these books that there are lots of indigenous people still in the land, and the cities they conquered are still intact, to be settled by the Israelites later.