Updated: Mar 26
The Canaanite Confederation Turns on Gibeon (vv. 1-5)
The Lord’s announced plan was to exterminate the seven Canaanite nations. Gibeon found in some measure of grace in his eyes, so that they were delivered from the ban of his judgment, as Rahab and her family were. The five local Canaanite kingdoms did not appreciate Gibeon’s peace treaty with Israel. Gibeon was a royal city, and its peaceful capitulation to Israel gravely weakened the Canaanite alliance. Passions were high and vengeance was swift, lest other lesser cities follow Gibeon’s example. The leader of the Canaanite movement to destroy Gibeon was Adonizedek, whose name means “My Lord is Righteous.” He was the king reigning from the heights of Jerusalem. He was likely a descendant, either by blood or position, of Melchizedek, Abraham’s friend. By this time, Adonizedek was not a servant of the Lord Most High. Peace with Israel meant the loss of sovereignty, and the other Canaanite nations would not bow to Israel, thus justifying the Lord’s judgments against them. Together with kings Hoham, Piram, Japhia, and Debir, these five armies joined to crush Gibeon. Unbelievers often turn passionately against those who try to leave their sinful way of life and pursue peace with the Lord Jesus. This is playing out daily in Muslim nations, in which those whom the Lord saves out of that darkness are ostracized, persecuted, and in many instances killed by their own family members.
Joshua Honors the Peace Treaty with Gibeon (vv. 6-7)
Gibeon was quickly surrounded. A pitiful message was sent: “Come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us.” There were mighty men in Gibeon (v. 2), so they might have fought it out, but instead they asked Joshua to remember their recent peace treaty. Joshua responded decisively. He came up from Gilgal with all the men of war. He acted not only from a sense of duty but also strategically, for Gibeon was one key to the entire southern campaign that was to follow. He was also acting under orders from the Lord, as will be seen subsequently. We should help those who ask us, as far as we are able. We should especially help those who are newly recovered from the world of sin. Joshua and Israel were recognizing something of the ideal of God’s kingdom – Jew and Gentile together in one body. Joshua did not say: “Good. With Gibeon destroyed, it will be one less obstacle.” No, he honored his promises and went to help them, even though it was a long, forced march at night and war and death were waiting at the end of the road. When we make promises, we must keep them, whatever it costs us.
The Lord Fought for Israel (vv. 8-15)
8 And the LORD said to Joshua, "Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you." 9 Joshua therefore came upon them suddenly, having marched all night from Gilgal. 10 So the LORD routed them before Israel, killed them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them along the road that goes to Beth Horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And it happened, as they fled before Israel and were on the descent of Beth Horon, that the LORD cast down large hailstones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword. 12 Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: "Sun, stand still over Gibeon; And Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon." 13 So the sun stood still, And the moon stopped, Till the people had revenge Upon their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 And there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the LORD heeded the voice of a man; for the LORD fought for Israel. 15 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
His Promises Spur Joshua to Action (vv. 8-9)
The Lord gives us grace when we are in the path of faith and obedience. “Do not be afraid of them. I have given them into your hand. Not one will be able to stand before you.” Joshua did not know the amazing ways the Lord would fulfill this promise with works so amazing that we are still mesmerized by them. But his night march and sudden engagement with the Canaanite conference was empowered by God’s promise. This is what is most important for us to see. We profess to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord, has destroyed death, and now rules over all at the Father’s right hand. We must act upon that confession. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). A sleeping faith is no faith at all. It is the five foolish virgins, holding on their lamps but with no oil, no life in them, no light in their souls. If we believe God’s promises, we shall act on them. God’s promises truly believed produce active obedience. This is not our strength but the Lord’s energy working in us mightily by his Word and Spirit (Col. 1:29). God’s promises are not like treasures that we burn in the ground or in a wall safe to protect. They are his living word, and they strengthen to obedience those that believe and act upon them.
He Slaughtered the Canaanites with Hail (vv. 10-11)
Before the Lord began throwing deadly hail upon the Canaanites, Joshua and Israel’s armies marched all night and suddenly attacked their enemies. The Lord honored their faith and obedience (1 Sam. 2:30). We will not overcome the world by a miracle. The Lord expects us to use the ordinary means he has provided. If we need an Augustine, Luther, or Calvin to light a match, he will raise them up. The Lord fighting for us never means we sit back and wait for him to do everything. Here the Lord sent down great stones, like heaven’s catapults, upon the Canaanites. More died from these stones than from Israel’s swords. “Have you seen the treasuries of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war” (Job 38:22-23)? Israel saw them that day and wondered. All nature is armed for our defense when we make the Lord our defense and fight with his weapons. This is his battle; we have his promise; the outcome is certain. All our confidence lies in these truths.
He Extended the Day at Joshua’s Cry (vv. 12-15)
The battle began early that day, likely before dawn. Joshua saw the opportunity to strike the most decisive blow yet against the Canaanites and open the entire southern region to Israel’s armies. He needed more time. Whether he cried at noon, as some think, or later, when he stood upon slopes, with the sun sinking behind him and moon rising before him, he cried in the sight of Israel. Some impulse from the Lord strongly gripped Joshua’s soul for him to ask for this, with surprising authority, so that he might continue to do the Lord’s work: “Sun, stand still upon Gibeon; and you, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.” The sun stood still. I will not argue which orb is moving, the earth or the sun. This is not the point. Even in our day, we speak of the sun rising and setting, though most believe the earth is moving, not the sun. In response to Joshua’s cry, the day was extended. The sun did not go down for about an entire day, or twelve hours. This even was recorded in the “Book of Jashur,” or, “The Book of the Upright, the True Israelite” (2 Sam. 1:18). Never has there been a day like this, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.
It is pointless to deny the miracle or to lessen it. If the Lord cannot interrupt the normal course of nature he has established, then ultimately the entire scheme of redemption must be excluded, for “the Word became flesh” is more stupendous than if the sun did not move for a thousand years. The Lord who set the stars in their place, including the sun and the earth, can sustain or suspend their normal operations at any time. He can stop the sun or the earth without anything cataclysmic happening – or he can send down deadly stones from heaven. Our Lord walked on water and stilled the storms. Faith, he said, can move the very mountains. There is a direct line from Gibeon to the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, for both stand or fall together – on God’s word as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and thus of our very lives, determining who is struck by hailstones and who is preserved. The world is simply now what we think it is in our narrow, unbelieving, Enlightenment darkness. This is God’s world, and it is God’s battle. When we are upright before him and seek to do his will, he will extend his omnipotent arm to help us. Let us believe and rejoice, believe and tremble, believe and fight!
The Southern Campaign Successful (vv. 16-43)
16 But these five kings had fled and hidden themselves in a cave at Makkedah. 17 And it was told Joshua, saying, "The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah." 18 So Joshua said, "Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them. 19 "And do not stay there yourselves, but pursue your enemies, and attack their rear guard. Do not allow them to enter their cities, for the LORD your God has delivered them into your hand." 20 Then it happened, while Joshua and the children of Israel made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they had finished, that those who escaped entered fortified cities. 21 And all the people returned to the camp, to Joshua at Makkedah, in peace. No one moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel. 22 Then Joshua said, "Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings to me from the cave." 23 And they did so, and brought out those five kings to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 So it was, when they brought out those kings to Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of the men of war who went with him, "Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings." And they drew near and put their feet on their necks. 25 Then Joshua said to them, "Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight." 26 And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. 27 So it was at the time of the going down of the sun that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, cast them into the cave where they had been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day. 28 On that day Joshua took Makkedah, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them -- all the people who were in it. He let none remain. He also did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho. 29 Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah; and they fought against Libnah. 30 And the LORD also delivered it and its king into the hand of Israel; he struck it and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword. He let none remain in it, but did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. 31 Then Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish; and they encamped against it and fought against it. 32 And the LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, who took it on the second day, and struck it and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword, according to all that he had done to Libnah. 33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua struck him and his people, until he left him none remaining. 34 From Lachish Joshua passed to Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it and fought against it. 35 They took it on that day and struck it with the edge of the sword; all the people who were in it he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish. 36 So Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, to Hebron; and they fought against it. 37 And they took it and struck it with the edge of the sword -- its king, all its cities, and all the people who were in it; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon, but utterly destroyed it and all the people who were in it. 38 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and they fought against it. 39 And he took it and its king and all its cities; they struck them with the edge of the sword and utterly destroyed all the people who were in it. He left none remaining; as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir and its king, as he had done also to Libnah and its king. 40 So Joshua conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel had commanded. 41 And Joshua conquered them from Kadesh Barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even as far as Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
The Five Canaanite Kings Captured and Confined (vv. 16-27)
The battle lost and their courage broken by such evident tokens of heavenly judgment, the five Canaanite kings hid in a mountain cave. The Israelites found them, but Joshua did not want to stop the battle. Seal up the cave with rocks and set a guard. The slaughter was terrible (v. 20). Nothing remained of their enemies. Joshua and his men returned to the cave and brought out the five kings. Joshua instructed his captains to place their feet upon the necks of these kings. This was not braggadocio – it was a powerful testimony to Joshua’s captains of the Lord’s faithfulness and power. These powerful kings, with great cities and powerful armies, are on the ground before them, groveling before them, defeated before them – just as every knee will bow at the feet of Jesus Christ, either in adoring faith or fear of judgment. Joshua said to his captains what the Lord had said to him – do not fear them. All your enemies will be subdued as these kings are. The Lord fights for you. Then, Joshua hanged these kings, took down their corpses at nightfall, and buried the in the cave in which they had taken refuge.
The Confederacy’s Cities Destroyed (vv. 28-39)
Joshua proceeded to capture and destroy the five cities of these five kings. The Lord delivered these cities to Joshua (v. 29). Joshua was the hammer of the Lord against these idolatrous nations. None were able to stand before him. Joshua left none alive. Joshua’s destruction of these five cities was God’s judgment without mercy upon the unrepentant Canaanites. And thus, we must give sin and Satan no quarter. We must make no alliances or friendships with the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Our entire mission is to rid the world of Canaanites, not by hailstones from heaven and swords in our hands, but by the sword of our Lord Jesus, his holy word that comes from his mouth. Are we as believing and obedient in ridding the world of God’s enemies – by salvation and conversion – as the children of Israel were? We have God’s promise, God’s weapons, and God’s strength.
The Lord Fought for His People (vv. 40-43)
With the five leading cities of the Canaanite confederacy destroyed, Joshua and his armies made a southern and western campaign around Jerusalem. This citadel of the Jebusites was not fully taken until the time of David. As he went south, Joshua destroyed all that breathed. Joshua took the entire region south of Jerusalem at one time, in the territory of what would become Judah. What explains their success? It was not military prowess, for the Canaanites were a strong, warring people. It was because the Lord fought for Israel (v. 42). Always we must remember this, and conduct our lives accordingly. The reason we turn back and made our peace with the world is the inverse of the Gibeonites’ “faith:” we have no confidence that the Lord fights for us. The modern church is in the grip of compromise because it is in the grip of unbelief. We cannot speak against false doctrine and corrupt worship in the church, the return of ritual and relic, Marxism and statism replacing Christ as King, gender bending, and all the rest. Why the muted voice? Unbelief. No confidence in the word of God. Fear of man. And when these evils grip the armies of the Lord of hosts, the Canaanites come roaring back. This is not because they are so strong or because the Lord is unfaithful. It is because we have resigned from his army and joined the other side.
The Lord Fights for Us
His Promise and Provision (Eph. 6:10-18)
Everything in this series of victories comes down to faith. Is God who he says he is? Will he do what he has promised? Is his word living and powerful, transforming and empowering? The actions Joshua took, the Lord’s assistance from heaven, and the victories achieved are all traceable to the Lord’s faithfulness and his people’s faith in him. “Without faith, it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). “Nothing is impossible to him who believes” (Matt. 17:20). And to us, he has made many more remarkable promises (2 Pet. 1:4) and certified them all by crucifying his Son for us (2 Cor. 1:20). The Lord is with us and walks in our midst (2 Cor. 6:16), indwells us by his Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), will never leave or forsake us (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). He fights for his believing people. He gives us invincible armor. Do we use it? Are you using it? Are you becoming more and more acquainted with his truth, so that it is like a belt that cinches up your life so you can move quickly and securely on the battlefield? Are you clothed with Christ’s righteousness and living righteously in Christ so that Satan’s deadly blows cannot pierce your heart? Is faith in God’s word your shield? The Lord fights for us, and he has given us weapons to follow him and battle against sin, Satan, and the world. We have so much more than Joshua did in his day, so much more clarity than the sun standing still, for we have heaven open and our Savior’s face beaming upon us more brightly than the sun shining at midday. Are we setting our affection upon him, so that we then live and love and fight in his fellowship and strength?
Our Enemy and Battlefield (2 Cor. 10:4; 1 Pet. 5:8)
The battlefield is not a section of dirt but the whole earth. It is anywhere Christ’s enemies resist him – from the university to your street. The battlefield is “every stronghold that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:4). It might be a neighbor who belittles the Bible – speak and defend God’s word. It might be in your corporate headquarters where you are asked to support sodomy and cross-dressing as acceptable lifestyles – speak up and refuse to bow to the beast. It may be in the church when false doctrines and half-gospels try to make inroads. The battlefield is sometimes the son who needs to be disciplined and confronted with God’s word, rather than yelled at and handcuffed. And in each of these battle scenes, the devil is our great adversary. It is not men – yes, men can be fronts for the devil, even as Peter was one day – “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Jesus did not say, “Get thee behind me, Peter.” This would have been fatal for Peter! But the Lord recognized that Satan can use many voices, take many forms, for he is a liar and an angel of light. It is pointless to become angry with men – we need to focus all our energies upon being armed against the evil one. He intends, as far as he is permitted, to deceive and to kill us. He stalks, looking for prey – the unwary teenager, the weary, bitter adult, the despairing soul, the over-secure believer. He is filled with malice. He hates God; he hates Jesus Christ. He hates the cross in his skull. He hates the word that fell him. He hates you for loving Jesus Christ. And he will do all in his power to afflict, frustrate, and sideline Christ’s disciples (1 Thess. 2:18).
Our Captain’s Orders: Believe and Engage (James 5:26; 1 Pet. 5:9)
Armed with God’s promises, Joshua and his army went into battle. It was not enough for them to say, “We believe God’s word.” They had to act upon it in obedience. It is the same with us, for “faith without works is dead.” One may be a confessional Presbyterian but a dead soul. When God quickens us to new life, he gives living faith, even if only a mustard seed. Faith responds to his word. In union with Jesus Christ, it bears fruit, so that our Father is glorified. And therefore, immediately after telling us who are enemy is, Peter adds the imperative: “…whom resist.” “Resist” is a command. We are commanded to engage the devil – not in our own strength, of course, but armed with God’s weaponry. The devil could not overturn God’s word in the mouth of dusty, humbled Jesus, and he cannot overturn it in your life, believer in Jesus Christ, as you follow your Captain into battle (Matt. 4:1-11).
Yes, believer, for all things are possible to him who believes – fighting against and overcoming lust, pride, and anger. Believing God’s promise to be with us and to fight for us, we can resist the beast of our times, who envisions far worse with his global technocracy than Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, Hitler, Stalin, or Roosevelt ever dreamed. Satan has now opened his chest of tricks and placed them in the hands of globalist elites who aim at nothing less than the total subjugation of the human race to their benevolent dictatorship through vaccines, digital currency, and institutional sodomy. But, as the Canaanite confederacy could not defeat Joshua because the Lord fought for him, so today’s pathetic attempts inspired by Satan are doomed. But we must awaken to believe what we profess, and to practice what we believe – that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God; that he reigns at the Father’s right hand; that the crown of life awaits the conqueror in Jesus; that God’s word remains sufficient and the sword in our Savior’s mouth; that it is better to die for Jesus Christ than to bow to Satan one inch. Let us ask the Lord to guide us with his wisdom, help us, strengthen us, and give us faith to take him at his word.