Israel’s Southern Campaign
“So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded” (v. 40).- Joshua 10:16–43
Five Amorite kings from the cities of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon joined together to destroy Joshua and the Israelites and prevent them from conquering all of Canaan. However, Israel defeated these kings and their armies because God was on their side to work miracles and to work through their military strategy (Josh. 10:1–15).
Today’s passage tells us that the Israelites not only thwarted the Amorites’ attempt to capture the city of Gibeon, but they also chased after the five kings and their armies after they fled. Some of the Amorite soldiers managed to escape to their cities, but Israel killed most of the fighting forces and trapped the five kings in “the cave at Makkedah” (vv. 16–21). Having routed these kings’ forces, Joshua returned to the cave and brought out the kings, inviting the commanders of the army of Israel to put their feet on their necks and exhorting them not to be afraid, for God would do to all the enemies of Israel what He was doing to the five Amorite kings (vv. 22–25). In Scripture, conquering is frequently symbolized with the imagery of putting enemies under one’s feet (1 Kings 5:3; Ps. 47:3), so the commanders’ putting their feet on the Amorite kings’ necks demonstrated that Israel would conquer the Canaanites. It was a tangible sign to encourage the people that God would keep His promises. It showed the Israelites then—and it shows us today—that “we conquer when God fights for us” (Matthew Henry).
Joshua 10:26–43 goes on to describe how Joshua killed the five captured kings and then led the Israelites against several cities in the southern region of Canaan. The overall picture is that Israel was able to conquer all of the cities it fought during this southern campaign and put the Canaanites in the south to death. However, the rest of the book tells us that while Joshua won many victories, the conquest was not completed at that time. Even the passage itself suggests as much. For example, Joshua 10:33 says that the Israelites defeated King Horam of Gezer, but the passage does not indicate that the actual city of Gezer was conquered. In fact, Joshua 16:10 reveals that while Joshua left no survivors of Gezer’s army, the people did not drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer but put them into forced labor. Also, some Canaanites apparently resettled Hebron and Debir after Joshua destroyed the inhabitants of those cities, for Caleb would later drive people out of those settlements again (10:36–39; 15:12–17).
Because of complacency or neglect, some of the cities Joshua conquered would rise again to threaten the Israelites. We may not go into battle against other cities, but if we are complacent or neglectful, the world, the flesh, and the devil can rise up again to attack us even if we seem to have conquered them. Let us remain vigilant against the enemies of God and of our holiness, seeking to put sin to death by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Passages for Further Study