Joshua conquers the Heartland
Five armies attack Gibeon1Jerusalem’s King Adoni-zedek heard Joshua captured Ai. He got the report that Joshua decimated it like he did Jericho, whose king he killed. Adoni-zedek also heard that his neighboring town of Gibeon made a peace treaty with Joshua. Gibeon was on Israel’s side. 2That terrified the king because Gibeon was a powerful city. In kingdoms with many cities, Gibeon was as large as a capital city. It was larger than Ai. And its men were strong fighters.
3Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem decided to form a coalition army to crush Gibeon. He sent messengers to King Hoham of Hebron, King Piram of Jarmuth, King Japhia of Lachish, and King Debir of Eglon. 4He said, “Come up here and help me attack Gibeon because it joined forces with Joshua and the Israelites.” 5All five kings mustered their armies and marched to Jerusalem—kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. From there, they launched their attack on Gibeon, surrounding the city and fighting its defenders.
Joshua to the rescue6Gibeon managed to get a message to Joshua, camped at Gilgal. The message said, “Send help quickly. We’re under attack by the combined armies of all the Amorite kings who rule in the hills nearby. Save us. We need you.” 7Joshua led his entire army on an overnight march out of Gilgal.
8The LORD told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid to take on these combined armies. I’m going to give them to you. They don’t have a chance against you.”
9Israel’s army marched all night and caught the Amorite forces by surprise in the morning. 10The LORD added confusion to the shocked warriors. Joshua crushed their coalition army at Gibeon. Israel chased the enemy fighters into retreat and followed them on the road to Beth Horon, and then on to Azekah and Makkedah. 11Enemy warriors ran for their lives down the Beth Horon Road toward Azekah. But they ran right into a hailstorm. The LORD hammered them with hailstones so large that the hail killed more of the enemy than Israel did.
Joshua’s song12That day, the LORD gave Israel and Joshua a huge victory over the Amorites. Joshua spoke to the LORD right out loud. The people of Israel heard him:
“Sun above Gibeon, stop where you are.
Moon over Aijalon Valley, stay right there.”
And the moon halted
Until a nation finished judging its enemy. It’s all there, preserved in the Book of Jashar. So, that’s what happened. The sun stopped high in the sky. It hung there all day. 14There has never been a day like that on this earth. Not before. Not after. The LORD listened to a person, and he fought for a nation—for Israel. 15Joshua and his army returned to their base camp in Gilgal.
Joshua traps five kings in cave16All five Amorite kings escaped. They hid in a cave at Makkedah. 17Someone told Joshua the kings were in the cave. 18Joshua ordered his men: “Seal the cave closed. Block the entrance with large rocks. Then post a guard so they don’t get away. 19In the meantime, keep chasing down their fighters. Attack the retreating army from behind. Don’t let those men ever see their homes again. The LORD your God has already handed them over to you.”
20Joshua and his men decimated the coalition forces, though some fighters managed to return to their homes inside walled cities. 21Israel’s army eventually finished the chase and safely returned to Joshua. He had set up a camp outside the Makkedah cave. By this time, everyone had stopped bad-mouthing Israel.
Joshua executes five kings22Joshua said, “It’s time to open the cave and bring out the five kings.” 23That’s what happened. Out came the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. 24Joshua ordered the kings brought over to him. Then he called in all his warriors. He ordered his commanding officers to step forward. He told the commanders, “Come over here, men. Step onto the necks of these kings.” That’s what the commanders did.
25Joshua told his men, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Don’t worry for a second. Be strong. Show courage. What the LORD did for us in this battle, he’ll do for us in all our battles.” 26Then Joshua killed all five kings and strung them up on five trees. They hung there until evening. 27Joshua ordered the bodies taken down at sunset and sealed inside the cave where they had hidden. Large stones still block that cave today.
Joshua’s southland battles28Joshua destroyed the nearby city of Makkedah that day. His men killed everyone they caught. No one survived. Makkedah’s king got the same treatment as Jericho’s king. 29Joshua and his men moved on to the next city, Libnah. 30The LORD gave Israel that city, too, along with the king of Libnah. Everyone in Libnah died. Israel didn’t let anyone survive. Libnah’s king got the same treatment as Jericho’s king. 31Joshua and his men left Libnah in ruins and moved on up the trail to Lachish. They lay siege to the city and attacked it.
32The LORD gave Israel that city on the second day of the assault. Everyone in Lachish died, just like the people of Libnah. 33King Horam of Gezer tried to rescue Lachish. It didn’t work out. The king and everyone with him died. Joshua and his men killed them all. 34Then Joshua and his men left the ruins of Lachish. They lay siege to Eglon and attacked. 35Israel took the city that same day. Joshua’s men killed everyone there, like they had done in Lachish.
36From Eglon, Joshua and his men traveled up to Hebron and attacked the city. 37They killed the king. They killed everyone in the city. They killed everyone in the outlying cities and settlements. Not one of the locals survived. Hebron got the same treatment Eglon had gotten. 38Joshua and his men moved on to the next target, the city of Debir. They attacked. 39Debir got the Hebron treatment. Israel killed the king and everyone in the city and in the outlying communities and towns.
Israel owns the southland40Joshua and his men overran the central highlands along with the western foothills and the eastern slopes that dip toward the Dead Sea. They also conquered the Negev desert region in the south. 41Joshua and his men conquered the territory from the desert oasis of Kadesh-barnea to the coastal city of Gaza, and from the territory of Goshen to the town of Gibeon. 42Joshua and his fighting men captured all the kings and their southland kingdoms in one sprawling campaign. They won the battles because their God, the LORD, fought for them. 43Afterward, Joshua and his army returned to their base camp in Gilgal.
Gibeon has been identified with a dirt mound of ruins called Tel el-Jib, about a two-hour walk north of Jerusalem, six miles (10 km).
This is the first time “Jerusalem” shows up in the Bible as a city by this name. All the kings Adoni-zedek contacted ruled Amorite city-kingdoms within a two-day march south or southwest of Jerusalem: Hebron about 20 miles (32km) south, Lachish 30 miles (48 km) southwest, Jarmuth 15 miles (24 km) southwest, Eglon (Tel ‘Eton) 30 miles (48 km) southwest.
The geography between Gibeon and Gigal is important to what happens next in the story. Gibeon (Tel el-Jib) is less than a day’s walk west of Jericho. But it’s on hills overlooking the Jordan River Valley, about 16 miles (25 km) away and one kilometer higher (over half a mile) than Joshua’s camp in the Jericho plains. Gibeon elevation: 2,425 feet, 739 meters. Elevation of Jericho: -846 feet, -258 m.
Beth Horn was roughly five miles (8 km) northwest of Gibeon. Azekah was a day’s march southwest, 20 miles (32 km). Makkedah’s location is uncertain, but one contender for its location puts it 25 miles (40 km) south of Gibeon.
Did the sun stop in the sky? People of faith debate that. Some say the Creator could hit the pause button. Others say that what we’re reading is poetry, not history. Yet the anonymous writer who reports the poetry seems to take it literally. Yet there’s another way to read it if we take the hailstorm as a clue. If storm clouds rolled in, perhaps the last Joshua saw of the rising sun was as it climbed over Gibeon. And the last he saw of the setting moon was over the valley. The sun didn’t stop moving. It stopped shining. The poem, some speculate, might have been Joshua’s prayer during the battle or his praise afterward. Before the battle, his men had finished an all-night march just in time to fight a battle against five armies. He didn’t need the sun beating up his men with desert heat. So, perhaps he prayed for the miracle or for the clouds.
The Book of Jashar is a lost book of stories or poetry, apparently from Israel’s history. That suggests the Book of Jashar was older than the Bible book of Joshua.
Some scholars say Joshua impaled them or hung them on poles instead of trees. It’s a fair guess. That’s because the Hebrew word for the tree or pole is es. It can mean tree, pole, firewood, sticks, woodpile. So, the context of the word is the clue to guessing what it meant.
It was against the law of Moses to leave a body hanging overnight (Deuteronomy 21:23).
Scholars most often identify Kadesh-barnea, also called Kadesh, as the spring-fed oasis at Tel el-Qudeirat, on Egypt’s side of the border with Israel. Another contender is Ain Qadeis, also on Egypt’s side of the border. Bible writers put the location in different deserts: Zin Desert (Numbers 20:1) and Paran Desert (Numbers 13:26). Some theorize there were two Kadesh oases. West Kadesh and East Kadesh. Not many scholars seem to buy into that.
This isn’t the “land of Goshen” in Egypt, where Jacob and his family migrated during a drought (Genesis 45:10; 47:6). Scholars say this is a stretch of grazing fields between the southern tip of the Judean hills and the Negev desert further south.
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