They gathered themselves together

A powerful force of five kings led by Adoni-zedek, who were already concerned about the Israelite threat, were now additionally disturbed over the four Gibeonite cities making a league with Joshua. Their tactics were thus altered from being “gathered together to fight with Joshua and with Israel” (Josh 9:2) to turning their wrath upon those they considered to be the traitors in their midst and mounting a campaign against Gibeon (10:4-5). Before turning our attention to the very interesting way in which these events point forward to the war known to us as “Armageddon”, the historical details will be considered to further show how the Gibeonites had made the right decision in placing their confidence in the God of Israel.

Adoni-zedek

The leader of the Amorites, whose name means “lord of righteousness”, is described as the king of Jerusalem. But he was an impostor compared with the king that God had appointed to rule the city. In Genesis 14:18 when Abraham returned from rescuing Lot he was met by Melchizedek (“king of righteousness”), king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. The importance to God of the city of Jerusalem is borne out in later Scripture and consequently its ruler has to be righteous. The impostor needed to be removed.

Saviour by name, saviour by action

Joshua means “Yah saves” and the newly affiliated Hivites were to receive salvation at the hand of the powerful God of Israel in whom they had placed their trust. And it was Joshua who became the agency whereby God was to save these faithful Gentiles.

If there was ever an opportunity for Joshua and the children of Israel to somehow ‘pay back’ the Gibeonites for what had happened at Gilgal, this was the time. The city of Gibeon came under attack and once again it was to the covenant people that they looked, this time with an urgent appeal for help. Unless there was a specific unrecorded part of the league that was made between Israel and Gibeon relating to aiding them should they be attacked, Joshua was under no obligation to do anything. He may have felt that a token army could be sent to help. Perhaps he should wait until daylight before leaving Gilgal. Maybe he could have given reasons why he just couldn’t muster his men to rally round immediately and help them. The opposite was, of course, true.

No time to lose

The record seems to be at pains to tell us that Joshua wasted no time in himself leading the army of “all the mighty men of valour” to make the journey by night, ascending from Gilgal to Gibeon (10:7). It is no wonder that the journey is referred to as an ascent, for the distance was upwards of 30 miles, from a starting altitude of about 840 feet below sea level to 2580 feet above. In addition, they had to traverse undulating and treacherously uneven terrain, making the total ascent around 6000 feet. After the exhausting journey, the army fought and defeated the five kings of the Amorites and because the time frame did not allow for this to be accomplished in one day, the sun was halted over Gibeon and the moon over Aijalon. This was an amazing God-given victory.

Joshua received encouragement from God that the kings would be delivered into his hand. He nevertheless had to galvanise his troops and make the first moves which proved vastly successful. The Amorites fled to Beth-horon, Azekah and Makkedah, pursued by Israel and further aided by Yahweh when he cast down great hailstones from heaven. The record informs us that more lost their lives through the hailstones than from the sword.

The sun stood still, and the moon stayed

Despite the successes of the surprise attack and God’s use of the elements (“Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word” – Psa 148:8), the victory over the Amorite kings was not complete. Joshua “said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Aijalon” (Josh 10:12). With the continuation of daylight, a more comprehensive victory was achieved:

“And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.” (Josh 10:13-14)

A faith-destroying path

Before discussing the slaying of the Amorite kings who had fled to Makkedah and were hiding in a cave, we need to be aware of the views of those who criticise the book of Joshua. It is sad to record that from within our community comments doubting the veracity of the book of Joshua have been made. The attack takes the following form:

  • “Gibeon did not exist because there is no archaeological evidence for it.”
  • “Consequently, all the information about it and the other accounts in Joshua can be treated as allegory.”
  • “Therefore, when unscientific events are portrayed, they can be ignored.”

These criticisms of the divine historical record are very serious and show that those who think this way have put themselves outside of the orbit of sound doctrine. The fact that “there is no archaeological evidence” for the site of Gibeon (even if that is a true statement and has been disputed by some experts) does not mean that the record is false. For centuries Babylon remained undiscovered under the desert sand until it was located and excavated. This proved beyond doubt that all that was written about Babylon in the Word of God was true. Who is to say that at some time in the future the same may be said about Gibeon?

The second comment is outrageous and surely an example of the kind of reasoning that is abhorrent to God. The book of Joshua is an historical record and divinely recorded with language and lessons that point forward to an additional allegory. But the use of allegory does not detract from the actual record of the conquest of Canaan in exactly the same way that the real Sarah and the real Hagar stood as representative women portraying Jerusalem and Sinai (Gal 4:21-31).

The third statement shows the motivation behind the first two. Nothing has changed since 1884! The reasoning that to explain ‘difficult’ parts of the Bible is to find a way to dismiss them, is exactly the same strategy used by Robert Ashcroft when he put forward his ideas on inspiration. His article “Theories of Inspiration” which appeared in the one and only edition of his magazine, The Biblical Exegetist, in late 1884, took the line that not all parts of the Bible are inspired. He postulated that when “contradictions” or passages “difficult to explain” are confronted, they can simply be considered as man’s mistakes as they would not affect salvation! But, of course, there are no “mistakes and contradictions” in the Bible. Explanations are sometimes needed but usually these are found within the pages of Scripture themselves and are harmonious and not contradictory. His theory was very damaging to the Truth and created the circumstances which led to a deep division in 1885, which was not fully healed until 1957.

To provide an answer to the third statement is to simply believe God. In Jeremiah 32:27, God asks, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me?” To reject the ‘unscientific’ long day in Joshua 10 leads to the rejection of other Scriptures referring to this historical event. It is very clear to see where such a path will lead—to unbelief!

Joshua supported by other Scripture

The incident of the sun and moon standing still is referred to in other Scriptures: Psalm 76:8; Isaiah 28:21; Habakkuk 3:11 and Ephesians 4:26. Logically, if we are to deny the veracity of the historical account in Joshua, we should also dismiss these connecting passages.

It shall bruise thy head

Adoni-zedek, Hoham, Piram, Japhia and Debir escaped to a cave in Makkedah. Joshua gave an instruction that the cave’s entrance was to be blocked by great stones—a temporary measure to provide opportunity for the destruction of the remaining Amorites. Attention then turned to the five kings. The stones were removed, the kings brought out and prostrated before the captains of Israel, whom Joshua commanded that they put their feet upon their necks.

Next, “Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight. And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.” (10:25-27)

By placing their feet on the necks of the five kings of Canaan, Joshua was showing Israel what God would do to all their enemies and this all links back to the promise to the serpent that the woman’s seed “shall bruise thy head” (Gen 3:15, cp Psa 18:40). This connection with Genesis is unmistakable. The kings of the Amorites represent sin in political manifestation and it is the power of sin that has been destroyed by Jesus, through his death. On his return, the world’s governments will be overthrown and every aspect of sin in political manifestation will be replaced by his righteous rule, executed by the immortalised saints.

The battle of Armageddon

The typical nature of the events of Joshua 10 are of great interest. A key phrase occurs in verse 5, “gathered themselves together”, which is repeated in the next verse (and also in chapter 9:2). This phrase is reused in Revelation 16:14,16 and applied to the battle of Armageddon. Having established this connection, it is now possible to see in these historical events elements of the two phases of Armageddon, which are: the Gogian invasion; and the later battle when Babylon the Great musters the nations to fight against the Lord Jesus Christ. In Revelation 14 there are two harvests: “the harvest of the earth” (v15) and “the clusters of the vine of the earth” (v18), which relate to these two final conflicts.

There is likely to be little response from the nations to the mid-heaven proclamation, because they will be so convinced that the new ruler of Israel is none other than the Antichrist. Led by the Catholic apostasy, whose teaching has deluded them, they will come against him—only to be annihilated. The description given of their defeat includes the outpouring of hailstones from heaven, exactly matching the use of that weather feature in the days of Joshua.

In Joshua 10:10-11 we read, “And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

This finds a latter-day correlation in the words of Ezekiel 38:22-23: “And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”

Similarly, Revelation 16:21 records, “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”

Tidings from the east and north

Jericho is east and Gibeon is north of Jerusalem. Adoni-zedek would have known that Israel had taken Jericho and Ai and made peace with Gibeon. This was the catalyst for his action in going up against Gibeon. In Daniel 11:44 (a parallel passage with Ezekiel 38) the invader hears and is concerned about the developments: “tidings out of the east and of the north shall trouble him”. The effect of this is that “he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many”.

The development of the apostasy

When Abraham was informed of the future direction of his natural seed in Genesis 15:13-16, one important fact concerned the path of iniquity of the Amorites. He was promised a land but this territory was at that time inhabited in the most part by wicked nations, which had to be removed. However, the time was not then right and he was informed that the “iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full”. This is a very interesting passage with allegorical import. Their iniquity had to develop over time answering to the mystery of iniquity which Paul described as developing in his day. In the end, Babylon the Great will be “full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (Rev 17:4). At that time her iniquity will be complete.

Yahweh fought for Israel

And so, the Gibeonites were saved, and wickedness removed from the land. In referring to these events and pointing forward to their prophetic equivalent, Habakkuk was inspired to write, “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck. Selah” (3:13).

The important role of the Gibeonites in Israel’s history will form the subject of the final article.