The Exodus and Conquest

[Exodus - Joshua]

The Conquest


Israel enters the promised land

[Josh 1:11-5:12] God reaffirms Joshua’s authority; then Joshua tells the people to prepare to cross the Jordan. Joshua sends two spies to check out the land and, in particular, Jericho. At Jericho, they stay at the house of a harlot named Rahab who hides them from the king’s men. They make an agreement with her that she, and all staying in her house, will be spared when the Israelites invade if a scarlet cord is tied in her window. She tells them that all Jericho has heard of everything that God had done for them, of their recent conquests, and how they are all afraid of them. Rahab’s window is in the city wall, so they are able to escape down a rope from the window, then go to hide in the hills for three days while the king’s men are looking for them. They then return to Joshua to report that all the people fear the Israelites. The next morning the Israelites move from Shittim and camp at the Jordan, which is in flood. After three days, the Ark of the Covenant is carried ahead, and while the priests stand in the middle of the Jordan holding the ark, the waters are cut off, allowing them all to cross on dry land. Joshua orders twelve stones to be collected from the middle of the Jordan. Once they have all crossed, the priests carry the ark to the west bank and the waters immediately return, in flood as they were before. They then move on to Gilgal where Joshua sets up the twelve stones as a memorial for future generations. None of the young men had been circumcised during their wilderness wanderings. This is now corrected and all the men of Israel remain in the camp until their circumcisions are healed. On the fourteenth day of the month they celebrate Passover; then on the next day the manna ceases and they begin to eat produce from the promised land.

The fall of Jericho

[Josh 5:13-8:35] Joshua receives instructions from God for the campaign against Jericho. For the next six days they march once around the city with the Ark of the Covenant ahead of them, with trumpets being sounded. On the seventh day, when the trumpets have sounded, all the people shout and the walls of Jericho collapse, allowing all the men to go into the city and conquer it. Only Rahab and her family are spared, being taken to a place outside Israel’s camp, later to be permitted to live amongst the Israelites. All the gold, silver, bronze and iron from Jericho is set aside for God’s treasury, and the city is burned. Joshua then warns the people against any attempt to rebuild Jericho in the future. Following a favourable report from men sent by Joshua to check out Ai, about three thousand men are sent against the city, but they are defeated. Joshua is distraught; then God tells him it is because someone has lied and stolen some of the things from Jericho meant for the Lord’s treasury. To correct this sin, the culprit has to be identified, punished and the things stolen burned. By a process of elimination, tribe by tribe, clan by clan, then family by family, Achan is identified as the culprit. He confesses and the stolen items are gathered and taken with his family outside the camp. Achan and all his family are then executed and everything burned and covered with rocks. God then tells Joshua to take Ai by an ambush. Men are to be sent to the other side of the city to lie in wait and the rest of the army is to confront Ai. When the men of Ai come out to attack them they are to turn and run. As the men of Ai pursue them and leave Ai undefended, those lying in wait are to attack the city and burn it. The men of Ai will then be caught between the two groups and defeated. The ambush and subsequent defeat will occur while Joshua holds out his javelin towards Ai. As God had instructed, Ai is totally destroyed and all its inhabitants killed. On this occasion God allows the people to keep all the bounty. Joshua builds an altar on Mount Ebal where burnt offerings are made and the law of Moses is copied onto the stones. As instructed by Moses, all the people face the Ark of the Covenant, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of Mount Ebal, while Joshua reads all the law, the blessings and the curses.

The central and southern cities are conquered

[Josh 9-10] When the kings west of the Jordan hear about Israel’s successes in the hill country, they all prepare for war, except the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites send a delegation to Israel with the aim to make a treaty, dressed and equipped as if they had been on a long journey from a distant country. Believing they are not from Canaan, and without enquiring of God, the treaty is made and ratified by an oath. Three days later they hear that these people are Gibeonites and had deceived them. When challenged about the deceit, the Gibeonites say it was because of all that they had heard and that they were in fear of Israel. Because of the oath made, Joshua has to let the Gibeonites live, but makes them wood-cutters and water-carriers for the community. Having heard the Gibeonites had made a treaty with Israel, five Amorite kings join forces to attack Gibeon. The Gibeonites appeal to Joshua for help and so he marches to Gibeon with all his fighting men, having been told by God not to fear the five kings. The armies are taken by surprise, thrown into confusion by God and defeated. The armies are pursued and as they flee Gibeon, God causes large hailstones to come down on them. More are killed by hailstones than by the swords of the Israelites. There is not enough time in the day to complete the defeat of the Amorites, so Joshua calls out to God for the sun to stand still to allow them more time: And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.… So the sun stood still in the midst of the heaven, and hastened not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: For the Lord fought for Israel [Josh 10:13b, 14]. Joshua has returned to Gilgal with his army when he then hears that the five kings are hiding in a cave at Makkedah. He gives orders for the cave to be blocked with stones and guarded while the remnant of the armies are pursued. However, a few manage to reach their fortified cities without being caught. The five kings are then hanged and left until evening, when their bodies are placed back in the cave, which is again blocked with stones. Joshua then attacks and defeats Makkedah, totally destroying it and everyone in it. From Makkedah, Joshua and his army move on to take and destroy the cities of the south as God had commanded, leaving no survivors. They then return to Gilgal.

The northern kings are defeated

[Josh 11-12] Led by Jabin, king of Hazor, the northern kings gather together at the Waters of Merom to war with Israel. Having been told by God that He will deliver these enemies into their hands, as He had done in the south, Joshua leads his whole army against the alliance and defeats the royal cities of the north, leaving no survivors. However, some Anakites survive in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod. Joshua and his army return to Gilgal and the land now has rest from war.

The division of the land

[Josh 13-21] Joshua is now very old and not all the cities of Canaan have been taken. God tells Joshua that He himself will drive out all the Sidonians and that Joshua is to include their land when dividing the whole land amongst the Israelites. After some of the land is allotted, the tabernacle is set up at Shiloh. Joshua then allots the remaining land to the Israelite tribes and clans as their inheritance. However, in numerous cases there are still some Canaanites living there, some of whom, but not all, become slaves to the Israelites. Cities of refuge are designated for anyone to flee to who kills a person unintentionally. There they will have protection from an avenger. Forty-eight towns are allocated to the Levites, each with pasture-lands surrounding them.

The eastern tribes return home

[Josh 22] Having completed their obligation to take part in the battles to possess the land, the Reubenites, Gadites and half-tribe of Manasseh return home to the east of Jordan. There they build an imposing altar by the Jordan, which the remaining tribes take to be some form of rebellion against God because the tabernacle had been erected at Shiloh. A delegation is sent to investigate and is told that the altar is not for offerings or sacrifice, but simply built as a witness to their continuing allegiance to God. They felt the need to do this because they are separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan.

Joshua’s last days

[Josh 23-24] Joshua is now approaching 110 years and the end of his life. He convenes the tribes of Israel and reminds them of what God has done for them, and will do if they follow his commandments. They are not to associate with the nations that remain among them, not to invoke the names of their gods, swear by them, serve or bow down to them. To do so will invoke God’s anger and they will quickly be driven from the land He has given them. Like Moses before him, Joshua’s final act is to summon the people to present themselves before God. Speaking for God, he briefly recalls their history from Terah, Abraham’s father, to the present day. They are called on to make the choice whether to fear and serve God or to serve other gods, to which all respond with an agreement to serve God. Here, at Schechem, Joshua makes a covenant for the people, commemorated by a stone placed close to the ark, and recorded in the Book of the Law. Joshua dies at the age of 110 and is buried at Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
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