MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 11
When the Canaanite kings in the north heard about the crushing defeat of the Canaanite kings in the south, they panicked. So, Jabin, king of Hazor, gathered up as many of the northern kingdoms as he could muster to attack Israel. As was the case with the southern kingdoms, the northern kingdoms did not have a history of partnership. In fact, they didn’t like each other and often fought each other. But the fear and hatred of Israel was enough for them to set aside their differences and come together.
The amassed army is described as being like the sand of the seashore along with many horses and chariots. Joseph, a Jewish historian in the first century, estimated this army consisted of 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry troops, and 20,000 chariots. By anyone’s estimation this was a huge military force.
Although the Scripture doesn’t say it, you might imagine that Joshua was at least a bit nervous about fighting against an enemy force of this magnitude. The reason we believe that was the case is what God said to him in verse 6. God promised a great victory. In fact, God promised an annihilation.
With that promise, Joshua did not wait for the enemy to attack his army. Instead he marched his army to meet them and surprise them. The result was just as God had promised.
You may be wondering why God instructed Joshua to hamstring all the horses and burn all the chariots. It may have been because the Canaanites used horses in their pagan worship. So the crippling of the horses may have accomplished two things. One, it proved that Yahweh was more powerful than any of the Canaanite gods. Two, it could have prevented the Israelites, at least at this particular time, from engaging in idol worship.
The burning of the chariots would have also prevented the Israelites from using those in future battles. Later the Psalmist would write, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7) Destroying the horses and chariots would have encouraged Israel’s trust in the one, true God instead of using them and misinterpreting the source of the victories to come.
Another interesting aspect of this chapter is found in verse 21. Depending on what translation you are reading, we encounter the Anakites or Anakim here. These were the “giants”. You might remember when Moses sent the 12 spies into the Promised Land, ten of them returned with a bad report based upon the fact that there were giants in the land. In fact, those ten men compared themselves to grasshoppers when they spoke of these giants.
Here we read where all of the giants in the north country were killed. This race of giants was not wiped out. There were some left in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. By the way, Goliath, who was one or the more infamous giants, was from Gath.
The last sentence of the chapter says that the land had rest from war. Specifically this means that all of the “major” enemies had been destroyed which would mean that big military campaigns would be few and far between in the days ahead. In other words, this is sort of an overarching statement that pointed not only to what had been done but what would also be accomplished.