Israel’s Northern Campaign
“Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses” (v. 15).- Joshua 11
Like all of the Historical Books of the Bible, the book of Joshua was written not only to give historical facts but also to teach readers important lessons. When we think of the ancient Israelites, we must remember that even at the height of Israel’s power under David and Solomon, the nation was still much smaller than the empires that vied for control of the ancient Near East. The Israelites were constantly besieged by enemies on all sides. It would have been very easy for the small nation to live in constant fear and to doubt God’s promises to defeat their foes.
Among other things, the book of Joshua taught the Israelites that they would not have to fear if they trusted in the Lord. Consider today’s passage, which describes Israel’s northern campaign—waged against the Canaanites in an area north of the Israelites’ holdings in the center of the Holy Land after the fall of Ai and Jericho—and the treaty with Gibeon. Joshua 11:1–5 depicts the threat from the north as seemingly impossible to overcome. The armies were “as numerous as the sand on the seashore,” so the Israelites were outnumbered. The northern Canaanites also had horses and chariots, so their military armaments were superior to those of the Israelites (vv. 4–5; see Deut. 20:1). Under any human assessment, the situation looked hopeless. Yet, God delivered the northern Canaanites into the hands of Joshua and the Israelites (Josh. 11:6–15). The Israelites who first read the book of Joshua were to learn that God would be with them to defeat their foes when they were faithful like Joshua, and the same lesson applies to the church today. Though we often seem powerless and outnumbered, we will enjoy spiritual victories when we are faithful to the Lord.
Note also that today’s passage says, “There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain” (v. 22). In other words, none of the Anakites—the descendants of Anak—remained in the portions of the Holy Land that Joshua was able to capture during his lifetime. Earlier, the Israelites cowered in fear before the Anakites. It was their refusal to believe that they could defeat the Anakites that led to forty years of wandering in the wilderness after the exodus (Num. 13–14). Now, the descendants of that unfaithful generation of Israelites drove out the Anakites, showing that God was with them to defeat their enemies. And this was because Joshua—and the armies he led—“left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses” (Josh. 11:15).
The description of Israel’s territory in Joshua 11 does not mean that there were no Canaanites left at all while Joshua was alive. Nevertheless, the success in the northern campaign meant that the land was essentially Israel’s, that God had kept His promise when Israel faced incredible odds. This is the same faithful God whom we serve. When we as Christians face seemingly impossible foes, we can be assured that the Lord will be with us as we look to Him.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 15:57