Joshua – Week 8: The defeat of the Southern and Northern Coalitions

Chapters 10 – 12 – The defeat of the Southern and Northern Coalitions

Literary context

Joshua 10 deals with the defeat of the Southern Coalitions (led by Jerusalem) and chapter 11 deals with the defeat of the Northern Coalition (led by Hazor).

Joshua 10

1-8: Formation of southern coalition, attack of Gibeon, and Israel come to rescue; section ended by promise from God

9-15: Defeat of Amorites (southern coalition), God fighting for Israel through hail storm and miracle of sun standing still

16-27: Joshua kills the five kings

28-39: Joshua destroys the rest of the southern towns

40-43: Summary of the southern battles, with statement that “the Lord, the God of Israel, was fighting for his people.”

Note: vv15 and 43 reads exactly the same. It could have been an accidental duplication! The Septuagint omits v15.

Joshua 11

1-6: Formation of the northern coalition, section ended by God’s promise of victory and instruction

7-15: Destruction of northern towns, ended by statement of obedience to instruction

16-20: Summary of campaigns in Northern territory, ended by statement of God’s intervention

21-22: Statement regarding the destruction of the descendants of Anak (refer the giants of Numbers that scared the Israelite spies that Moses sent)

23: Statement of cessation of war and introduction of the theme of rest (refer Hebrews 4)

Joshua 12

1-6: Summary of campaigns to the east of the Jordan

7-24: Summary of campaigns to the west of the Jordan

Chapters 10 and 11 concludes on the warfare and chapter 12 provides a summary of what has happened immediately preceding the book of Joshua as well as the events narrated in the book of Joshua up to this point.

It is notable how the pace of the narrative picked up. The book of Joshua starts very slowly, giving a large amount of detail for a few significant events. In chapters 10 to 12 one gets the feeling that the author ran out of space or time but still wants to fit a large amount of data into the story.

Historical context

Gibeon was an important city in the area, strategically located and therefore the reason for the king of Jerusalem attacking Gibeon when he heard that they made a treaty with Israel. This cut him off from the northern routes and it was also close to the area they had to pass in order to get to the coast.

Gibeon is referred to in many places in the Old Testament. Notable is that the area was allotted to the tribe of Benjamin. Saul came from this tribe, making the murder of the Gibeonites described in the book of 2 Samuel 21 so much worse.

Focussing on the sun and moon that stood still, it is worth while noting that the sun (Gibeon) and moon (Jericho) gods were of the most revered by the Canaanites. It is therefore significant that God showed his power over these “deities” by controlling their movement.

Reference is made to the Book of Jashar as the source for this event. This book (meaning The Book of the Upright One) has not survived, but is referred to elsewhere in the Old Testament as a source. It could have been a collection of poetic war songs, but any view will remain speculative.

There has been many attempts to translate verses 12-13 in a way that can explain these events in a more natural way. Some believe that it refers to a solar eclipse, as in the sun stopped shining as opposed to stop moving. However, this does not fit the context of the story as a dark sun would not have helped the Israelites.

In a variation of this, others suggest that this refers to an early morning hailstorm that blackened the sky until the enemy was defeated. This does not make any sense either from the context. Also, the narrator specifically refers to “the middle of the sky.”

Finally, there have been attempts to classify this passage as an “historicised myth” due to the difficulty of rendering this passage in a way that conforms with a scientific viewpoint.

There is a comparison to Agamemnon asking Zeus not to let the sun go down before the Achaeans have been victorious. (“May the sun not go down, nor darkness come, before I have cast down Priam’s palace …”)

There is also a myth in South America about the night that never ended, and similar stories from China, Egypt and Mexico

Of all the attempts to explain this, the 30 year old story of the NASA consultant who found the missing day is not true! Harold Hill who claimed to be this consultant could never verify exactly what happened and NASA Public Affairs denies that he ever worked for them – either as consultant or employee, or that this test was ever done: ‘There is no truth to the recurring story that NASA uncovered a lost day in the movement of the Earth.’

Analysing narrative

As noted above, this text moves very fast. It very briefly reports on the formation of coalitions, their defeat, and then summarises. Chapter 12 summarises what has happened in the preceding chapters. Interesting to note that according to 13:24, 31 kings were defeated. The first two are described in the first 9 chapters and the last 29 in the preceding two chapters. It can therefore safely be said that this is a report, and can be analysed accordingly.

Often, the main point of a report is found by how it contrasts with other reports. The three reports contained in these three chapters (southern and northern coalitions and the summary of the book to date) are all very similar in structure and the way in which it is presented.

It is therefore likely that the main point will not necessarily be found in a contrast, but rather in similarities or repetition: the answer to the question “what is different or contrasting?” does not yield a positive answer. However, when you ask “what is the same?”, we immediately see many similarities.

What is the main similarity? In the narratives dealing with the southern and northern coalition, we see similarity in that the story starts with the formation of the enemy coalition (the attack of Satan on our lives); then God instructs (the Gospel call); God fights on behalf (hail and sun in chapter 10, and simple statement in chapter 11) (Jesus on the cross); The Israelites take action (defeat the enemy) (accept in faith); and ends with statement of God having fought on behalf of the Israelites (summary). There are many comparisons to this theme in the Bible, and one that immediately jumps to mind is when the Israelites were trapped between the red Sea and the Egyptian army (Exodus 14:13-14).

Reflection

For me there is a clear comparison to the Israelite nation and our Christian life. We are saved by God’s grace (he has, is and will be fighting for us – but primarily what he has done on the cross), but as much as He has taken the initiative and action in our salvation, there is also a responsibility on us to take action through faith – in a sense by accepting the free offer of salvation.

Application

This section has many applications. Try to think of applications in your life relating to the main theme identified above.

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