Northern armies unite against Israel
- 1 News of all this spread north to King Jabin of Hazor. He rallied kings from all over the territory: King Jobab of Madon and kings of Shimron and Achshaph;
- 2 Kings of the north highlands, the Jordan River Valley south of the Sea of Galilee,1 the foothills to the west, and the western region of Dor; 2
- 3 Kings of Canaanites from east to west along with kings of Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites in the highlands, and Hivites in Mizpah territory at the foot of Mount Hermon.
- 4 These kings united their forces into a massive army. They had more warriors than sand on a beach. This coalition army fielded an enormous chariot corps, with a lot of horsepower.3
- 5 They camped at Merom Springs4 as a staging ground for the battle against Israel.
- 6 One day before the battle, the LORD told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid. By this time tomorrow I’ll have given you this army. And they’ll be dead. When you attack them, disable their horses by cutting their hamstrings.”5
Joshua leads surprise attack
- 7 Joshua and his men hit the enemy in a surprise attack at Merom Springs.
- 8 The LORD had Israel defeat the coalition army. Then the Israelites chased down enemy warriors who ran away. They pursued them as far north as Sidon, west to Misrephoth-maim, and east to Mizpah territory. Israel’s fighters chased them and killed them until there was no one left to kill.
- 9 Joshua had done what the LORD said. He disabled the horses and burned the chariots.
- 10 After this battle, Joshua captured Hazor and killed King Jabin. Until then, Hazor had been capital of all the kingdoms that fought Israel in this battle.
- 11 Israel’s army killed everyone in Hazor and then set the city on fire.
- 12 Joshua took every city of every king who fought him in that battle at Merom Springs. And in every city, the Israelites killed everyone. They did what Moses, the LORD’s servant, told them to do.
- 13 They didn’t destroy towns built on mounds6 of previous cities.7 Hazor was the exception. Joshua set Hazor on fire.
- 14 Israel killed all the people in those cities. Then they kept whatever they found and wanted, including the livestock.
- 15 The LORD told Joshua what to do and when to do it, just the LORD had done with Moses. Joshua did whatever the LORD said.
How Joshua captured the country
- 16 So, this is the story of how Joshua took control of all the land. He captured the central highlands, the Negev deserts in the south, the territory of Goshen,8 the foothills above the coastal plains, the Jordan River Valley, and Israel’s mountains and foothills.
- 17 He captured territory from Mount Halak9 in the far south to Edom in the distant east, and all the way up north to Baal-gad in the Lebanon Valley at the foot of Mount Hermon. Joshua executed all the kings who ruled those places.
- 18 Joshua fought this war for a long time.
- 19 The only town Joshua made peace with was the Hivite town of Gibeon.
- 20 The LORD made the people in those enemy towns so stubborn that they insisted on fighting Israel. For that, Israel killed them all. They left no survivors, which is what the LORD told Moses they should do: show no mercy.
- 21 After those victories, Joshua turned his attacks toward descendants of the giant, Anak.10 They lived in the highlands of Hebron, Debir, Anab, all the hills of Judah, and all the hills of Israel. Joshua wiped out their cities and killed their people.
- 22 No Anakites survived to live in Israel. Some lived along the coast in the cities of Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.11
- 23 This is how Joshua captured all the land, just as the LORD told Moses it would happen. Joshua gave the land to Israel. He divided it among the tribes. After all these battles, the people lived in peace.
Called Chinnereth, in Hebrew. The word means “lyre” or “harp.” The Sea of Galilee is a lake shaped like a harp.
The Hebrew language calls it naphoth Dor, but it’s unclear what to do with naphoth. The context suggests it might mean “hills” of Dor or “territory” of Dor. The ancient city of Dor is now linked to a ruin along the Mediterranean coast, about 10 miles (16 km) south of the Mount Carmel ridge. The site is called Tel Dor or Khirbet el-Burj. Rameses II mentioned it in an inscription from the 1200s BC.
People started taking horse-drawn chariots into battles by around the 1500s BC, perhaps a century or more before Joshua and the Israelites faced them on the battlefield. Chariots were the ancient equivalent of tanks on a battlefield. They could plow through a lot of foot soldiers before anyone could stop them. Cavalry didn’t seem to come until a few centuries later. Scythian nomads from Asia were among the first to fight on horseback around the time of King Solomon.
Literally “water of Merom.” It might have been a stream, spring, or pond. But it was likely near a flatland field suitable for the chariots. They didn’t do well in hill country, which may be why Israelites seemed to prefer the highlands to the coastal plains along the Mediterranean Sea.
Large tendons at the back of the knee on a horse’s hind legs. It cripples a horse, takes it out of the battle, and gives an armored chariot and its fighting crew nowhere to go.
The Hebrew word for “mound” is tel. The mound looks like big speedbump—an artificial rise above the surrounding ground. They develop slowly from cities destroyed and rebuilt on ruins of the previous cities.
There’s no explanation for why the Israelites didn’t follow the instructions of Moses and burn the cities after killing the people (Deuteronomy 13:16). Perhaps they wanted to live in those cities. Since the cities were built over ruins of previous cities, it must have been a good location—good enough that others picked the same spot to build their town.
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.
Today called Jebel Halaq, it’s southeast of Beersheba, about a two-day walk south of Jerusalem, roughly 40 miles (64 km).
“Giant” doesn’t show up in the Hebrew here. But the descendants of Anak—the Anakites or Anakim—are described elsewhere as giants (Deuteronomy 2:10-11, see also Numbers 13:22). A generation earlier, these giants are one of the reasons the Israelites were afraid to invade Canaan. God sentenced the Israelites to 40 years in the desert wasteland for their lack of faith in him.
These were Philistine cities. Goliath was a descendant of Anak. Israel had to wait a couple centuries or more for King David to overpower the Philistines.