The Conquest


Israel enters the promised land

[Jos 1:1-5:12] God reaffirms Joshua’s authority, reviewing the task ahead and encouraging him to be strong and very courageous. Joshua is reminded that observance of the law is a condition of prosperity and success. Joshua tells the people to prepare to cross the Jordan to possess the land given to them by God. The people responded saying that they will do all that Joshua commands them. 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 circumcision is 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

[Jos 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 told Joshua to take Ai by an ambush. Men are to be sent to the other side of 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. With the people facing the Ark of the Covenant, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half in front of Mount Ebal, Joshua reads all the law, the blessings and the curses, as instructed by Moses.

The central and southern cities are conquered

[Jos 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 were in fear of Israel. Because of the oath made, Joshua has to let the Gibeonites live, but made them wood-cutters and water-carriers for the community. Having heard the Gibeonites had made a treaty with Israel, five Amorite kings joined 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 [Jos 10:13b, 14] . Joshua returns to Gilgal with his army and 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 managed 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

[Jos 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 in Israel’s land. However, some Anakites survived 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

[Jos 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 remaining cities, and that Joshua is to include their land when dividing the whole land amongst the Israelites. [This doesn’t relieve the Israelites of their responsibility to conquer the territories, rather, confirms their need to trust in God]. Reuben, Gad and the half tribe Manasseh, at their request, had been allotted territories east of Jordan. However, not all the territories allotted to Reuben had been expelled and continued to dwell amongst the Israelites. Caleb, of the tribe of Judah, was one of those supporting Moses after the spies returned from surveying the Promised Land. Moses consequently promised him a specific territory. Joshua honours that promise, blesses Caleb and gives him Hebron as his inheritance. But he first has to drive out the inhabitants, which he does. Judah is now allotted the remainder of their territory as their inheritance. Part of the tribe of Manasseh had been allotted land east of the. The other part are to settle on the west bank of the Jordan, and here we have the areas allotted to this half of Manasseh and to Ephraim. However, the Canaanites that dwell in Gezer are not driven out and dwell among the Ephraimites, albeit they served under tribute. Now there is a problem with Manasseh driving out all the inhabitants: Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out [Jos 17:12-13] . Now Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, were two of the larger tribes, so they question Joshua asking why they had been given just one lot and suggesting that, because of their size, they really should have two lots. Joshua agrees to their suggestion and another lot is drawn. Manasseh are now able to dwell next to Ephraim on the West Bank. (Remembering, of course, that the other part of Manasseh are over on the east bank of the Jordan River). The tabernacle is now set up at Shiloh making Shiloh the spiritual centre for the Israelites from where the priesthood would perform their duties. There are still seven tribes who have yet to receive their inheritance. Three men from each of these tribes are chosen to go and survey the territory and draw out the boundaries. On their return, the casting of lots for the remaining tribes could begin. The first lot is for Benjamin who are to dwell around the area of Jerusalem and northward, a narrow strip that went from Jordan up through Bethel. The second lot is for the tribe of Simeon who become the southern most tribe in Israel. Their land is to be down around Kadesh- Barnea and desert area, a vast desert area Beersheba, and almost up to Hebron. The third lot is for the tribe of Zebulun who receive the area of the valley of Megiddo, and the vast valley from Haifa on back towards Mount Gilboa. The fourth lot is for the tribe of Issachar who receive the area south of the Sea of Galilee. The fifth lot is for the tribe of Asher who receive the coastal area from Haifa on up to Sidon. The sixth lot is for the tribe of Naphtali who received the area around the Sea of Galilee. The seventh lot is for the tribe of Dan who are given the area known as the Hula Valley, which is the upper Jordan before it gets to the Sea of Galilee. Then, finally, a city is given to their leader Joshua in the general area known as Mount Ephraim. The Levites do not have territories of their own but are given cities with surrounding land for their farming. Forty eight cities are given from amongst the tribes, all of which are listed here in chapter 21.

The eastern tribes return home

[Jos 22] Having completed their obligation to take part in the battles to possess the land, the Reubenites, Gadites and a part of the 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

[Jos 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 the Lord’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 before the Lord. Speaking for God, he briefly recalls their history from Terah, Abraham’s father, to the present day. Here, at Shechem, Joshua makes a covenant for the people, commemorated by a stone placed close to the ark, and recorded in the Book of the Law. 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. 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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