BIBLE STUDY SERIES #581, 582 and 583

January 12, 2003

Joshua 10 - HAILSTONES

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which have continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had been left for two recent weeks in order to devote some attention to matters more particularly relating to the time of Advent and of the New Year. Today, we pick up our sequence of Studies, which had covered the Scriptural record as found in Joshua 9 and part of Joshua 10.

For new listeners, we should "set the scene" with a short preamble. We had previously examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, and circled Jericho until the walls fell and the taking of the city was complete. They had not noticed that one of their number, Achan, had secreted booty in his tent which had belonged within the Treasury of the LORD or, in the case of the Babylonish garment which he took, ought to have been burnt, and with that sin in their camp, God had allowed the forces of Ai to overcome them. Achan was revealed by God's procedure and they had dealt with that sin. Thereafter, Ai was taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward. Joshua had led Israel to the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal where the Israelites carrying out certain of the orders of The LORD, which were delivered to the nation of Israel by Moses back in Deuteronomy 11:16-32 and Deuteronomy 27:2-3. We had then moved on to Joshua 9 which had begun with the words:

1. And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof;
2. That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.
3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai,
4. They did work wilily, and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses, and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up;
5. And old shoes and clouted upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.
6. And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.
7. And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?

Here, in spite of the evidence shown to them, Joshua and the princes of Israel had failed to approach The LORD to check out what they had heard. Thus, at Israel's recent victorious moves, the Canaanites living next in line of advance had, under false pretenses, created the situation in which Israel was then brought into a league with them, through a mistake in judgment which unfolded certain consequential obligations. Had Joshua and the leaders of Israel checked first with their LORD, they might have discovered the trickery involved. However, the covenant, sealed by eating of a meal together, demanded compliance even if the terms were not to their liking, as they later discovered further along in Joshua 9. "And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose." God would turn this development into several advantages to Israel, as well as to those Gibeonites, in future.

The five kings had come together, in order to attack their former ally for making the agreement with Israel, and also to "close the door", militarily speaking, which had consequently opened before the Israelites, into the heartland of Canaan. Here God is also at work. That battle had begun, and the outcome was secured by a victorious assault. The Scriptural account had stated, from verse 9,

9. Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.
10. 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 Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.
11. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, 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.
12. Then spake Joshua 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 thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.

We now enter upon this portion of the account which has caused differing views to be written by commentators. The LORD was there, all along, in the circumstances whether they would give the people the appearance of a developing danger or not. It is all very well, when reading an account of a miraculous occurrence in the history of God's people, to assume that the conclusion was naturally known in all its details ahead of time, but this was not necessarily so. There would, perhaps, still be individuals who were somewhat dubious concerning the final outcome. The matter seems totally assurred in hindsight, but we ought to give credit to the individuals who must endure the battle before they know the successful outcome and conclusion. May this grant us a deeper appreciation of the qualities of those Israelites who must advance against their foes at the break of the day of battle.

I think it will be advantageous for us to read the second part of the comments on this chapter found in The New Bible Commentary, for it presents more than one view of interpretation concerning the events of nature which completed the rout of Israel's enemies. That section states this:

"There follows a quotation taken from the book of Jasher (13) (more accurately 'Jashar'), which seems to have been a collection of songs in praise of the heroes of Israel. It records Joshua's prayer: 'Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon: and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon' and asserts that in answer 'the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.' (12, 13). Two questions are raised by the passage. Where does the quotation begin and end? and how are we to explain the episode here recorded. The quotation evidently begins at verse 12, and since Joshua did not return to Gilgal until after the utter defeat of the enemy - his return is narrated in verse 43 - we must take it that verse 13 is part of the record taken from the book of Jashar. Secondly, did the sun stand still? One explanation of the episode that has been offered is that the narrator has taken what was merely a highly figurative poetical description of God's intervention on behalf of Israel as historical fact. But there is no reason to reject a more literal interpretation, though this passage has often been the butt of scientific scorn, much of which, it seems possible, may be based on a misunderstanding of the record. It has usually been unquestioningly assumed that Joshua prayed for the day to be prolonged. But is it not possible that what Joshua needed even more, since, as is expressly stated in verse 9, he came upon the camp of the enemy by night, was that the darkness should continue and the night be prolonged for his surprise attack? That it was early morning when he made his request is evident from the position of the moon in the valley of Ajalon (to the west) and the position of the sun over Gibeon (to the east) (12). The answer to his prayer came in a hailstorm which had the effect of prolonging the darkness. An investigation of the exact meaning of the Hebrew words used confirms this interpretation. The word translated 'stand still' means literally 'be silent' and frequently has the sense 'cease' or 'leave off', as also has the word translated 'stayed' (see Lam. ii. 18; 2 Ki. iv. 6); and the natural meaning of the word translated 'go down' in the phrase 'hasted not to go down' is simply 'come' or 'go'. Only once, in Gn. xxviii. 11 has it the meaning 'set'. The phrase can therefore be translated, 'the sun made no haste to come, about a whole day ...' And so in the darkness of the storm the defeat of the enemy was complete. A more spectacular miracle is demanded by the more usual translation of the passage." The Commentary then mentions two authorities that make reference to the fall of a meteor, and one whose work supports the usual interpretation of the passage. It notes that a less spectacular intervention than is postulated by the more customary interpretation would still be a divine miracle, and states "It was still God who lengthened the night by a miraculous intervention on behalf of His people."

As we close for today, we can evaluate the various explanations for ourselves without disharmony to the divine plan.

January 19, 2003

Joshua 10 - THRUSTING SOUTH - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found in the first portion of Joshua 10.

For new listeners, we should "set the scene" with a short preamble. We had previously examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, circling and taking Jericho and, after an episode wherein one family brought sin into the camp of Israel, causing a temporary defeat at the small town of Ai, that matter had been righted, and the town thereupon taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward.

Joshua had led the Israelite tribes to the two mountains named Gerizim and Ebal where Israel carried out a public ceremonial to proclaim, and affirm, acceptance of The LORD's Commandments as had been ordered of The LORD, through Moses. We had then moved on to Joshua 9 in which we learned of a treaty into which the unwary Israelite leadership had been trapped by the lies of the Gibeonites. However, once entered, the compromising agreement must be observed, so those Gibeonites were told that they would be hewers of wood and drawers of water to Israel as slaves of The Sanctuary.

The Canaanites were infuriated with the surrender to Israel by the Gibeonites, and came out against them, causing the Gibeonites to appeal for help to Israel. Military aid was swiftly brought to them by a forced march. The defeat of the five kings of the Southern Canaanite confederacy which had sought to slay the Gibeonites was thus the means of the taking of all the Southern portion of Canaan. The Israelites had defeated the armies of the five Canaanite cities, and the rout was completed by a terrible hail storm sent by The LORD, which slew more of those enemies than had Israel. We will soon be reading the continuation of the somewhat bloody account which we find recorded in the Scripture portion, which you will find in Joshua 10, for in those verses we find that Israel is being given the task of what might well be called extermination of the people in the cities from which the armies had emerged.

Before we proceed to that account, however, we must reiterate something which we had explained before. When Abraham was given the promise of inheritance of this Promised Land by God, Abraham had actually shown great compassion in the character of his attitude in that he had pleaded, on learning that God was going to inspect Sodom and Gomorrah to assess the wickedness thereof, that if a few righteous people were living among those populations, The LORD would spare the city. As it turned out, the bargaining between Abraham and God had reduced the tally of required righteous to the number of ten. Had ten righteous been found in the entire city, God would not destroy the people and their city. It so happened that on that occasion, only Lot and his two daughters had escaped the destruction by fire which followed.

This attitude of compassion also had to be applied to the inhabitants of the Promised Land. God told Abraham that there were Amorites in the land, whose "cup of iniquity" was not yet full. However, just as surely as God had dealt with Sodom and Gomorrah, (an action incidentally, that Jesus Christ reminds us in Luke 17:32, will likewise apply at His Second Advent return), so He would deal with the Amorites and other Canaanites dwelling in that Land of Promise after their 400-year time of trial or testing had expired. The Amorites, by the time of Joshua had indeed exceeded their allowance of testing-time, and their "cup of iniquity" had by then overflowed. Their time had run out, so there was no further mercy to be extended to those Canaanite inhabitants present in the Promised Land when Joshua and the armies of Israel invaded.

I believe a short digression at this point will perhaps prove of some importance. When mentioning the 400 years allowed for the testing of those Amorites, we likewise note that there will, by 2003, have been a period of 400 years since the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. The connection I have in view is this: You may remember that year marked the time at which James VI of Scotland (a portion of the descendants of Judah, as we understand), became James I over the united Israelite tribes in both Scotland and England, which we understand to comprise a large body of descendants of the tribes of Northern Israel at the time of their Assyrian deportations about 721 B.C.. The union then achieved mended the breach in Israel which occurred at the time of Rehoboam, Solomon's son. Thus modern-day Israelites will complete 400 united years in the "appointed place" which God promised to King David in II Samuel 7:10. This, we base on the words there quoted "Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more as beforetime." We must now ask, "Will an occasion of tallying up the sins of modern-day Israelites come about in this modern 400-year equivalency? Time's passage will doubtless inform us on the answer to that question.

Lest we be thought to express an insupportable contention in that connection, it might be useful to add a quotation from Biblical Archaeologist of December, 1988. It states "Even as late as the early fifty century C.E. the great biblical scholar Jerome, who translated the Scriptures into Latin, spurned the notion that Palestine was to be identified with the biblical land of promise, even though he lived in Bethlehem and wept when he visited the places associated with the life of Jesus. Responding to a Roman magistrate from Gaul who asked if Palestine was the terra repromissionis, Jerome (epistle 129) answered firmly that the land of promise was not the actual land where the Israelites lived. He reasoned that those who spoke of the promise - David, for example - were living there at the time and so must have meant another land. In his letter to the magistrate Jerome also said that he thought the land was much too tiny to be accorded such an honor."

We will take this reading of Joshua 10 starting with a review from verse 11 in order to introduce some alternative thoughts from other Commentaries to those contained in The New Bible Commentary which were discussed on the last Study.

11. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, 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.
12. Then spake Joshua 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 thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.

At that point, we had reviewed some ideas as to the most suitable approach to an understanding of the Scripture passage, using notes found in The New Bible Commentary. We ought not to leave the matter without taking note of some variant views. The Companion Bible, with reference to that mention of the Sun states "= the sun itself, because of what is said in the next verse." and concerning the words "stand thou still" mentions Habakkuk. 3:11, a prayer by that Prophet, (which says "The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear."). That reference continues "This is not the only miracle in connection with the sun. See shadow going back (2 Kings 20. 11. Isa. 38.8). Going down at noon (Amos 8. 9). No more going down (Isa. 60. 20). Darkened (Isa. 13. 10 Ezek. 32. 7. Joel 2. 10, 31; 3. 15. Matt. 24. 29. Rev. 6.12; 8.12; 9.2; 16.8). Some of these references might be to prophetic symbolism, so we should not be too rigid in requiring one interpretation over another without careful evaluation. At verse 13, the words "stood still" are given the meaning "waited silently."

Keil and Delitzsch tend to maintain the concept that the sun was visible over an extended time, but give room for debate as to the possible extension of the time in the minds of the Israelites who were extremely active through the hours of that day. Refraction of light or continuance of lightning throughout the night and other concepts are also introduced as possible factors in explanation of the peculiar phenomenon.

We shall consider the remainder of Joshua 10 in the next Bible Study.

January 26, 2003

Joshua 10 - THRUSTING SOUTH - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found in the first portion of Joshua 10.

For new listeners, we should "set the scene" with a short preamble. We had previously examined the records of the acts of the Israelites under orders of The Captain of the Host of The LORD, and the transmission of these through their military leader, Joshua, as they proceeded towards occupancy of the Land of Promise which God swore to give to Abraham's descendants. The Israelites had completed their initial tasks, circling and taking Jericho and, after an episode wherein one family brought sin into the camp of Israel, causing a temporary defeat at the small town of Ai, that matter had been righted, and the town thereupon taken and put to the sword, and the movement had again gone forward.

Joshua had led the Israelite tribes to the two mountains named Gerizim and Ebal where Israel carried out a public ceremonial to proclaim, and affirm, acceptance of The LORD's Commandments as had been ordered of The LORD, through Moses. We had then moved on to Joshua 9 in which we learned of a treaty into which the unwary Israelite leadership had been trapped by the lies of the Gibeonites. However, once entered, the compromising agreement must be observed, so those Gibeonites were told that they would be hewers of wood and drawers of water to Israel as slaves of The Sanctuary.

The Canaanites were infuriated with the surrender to Israel by the Gibeonites, and came out against them, causing the Gibeonites to appeal for help to Israel. Military aid was swiftly brought to them by a forced march. The defeat of the five kings of the Southern Canaanite confederacy who had sought to slay the Gibeonites was thus the means of the taking of all the Southern portion of Canaan. The Israelites had defeated the armies of the five Canaanite cities, and the rout was completed by a terrible hail storm sent by The LORD, which slew more of those enemies than had Israel. We will soon be reading the continuation of the somewhat bloody account which we find recorded in the Scripture portion, which you will find in Joshua 10, for in those verses we find that Israel is being given the task of what might well be called extermination of the people in the cities from which the armies had emerged. On our last Bible Study, we re-examined the morality of the activities of the army of Israel, and noted that it was an invasion ordered and guided by The LORD Himself, and we ought now to add the appropriate stress upon the long-term ramifications of any alternative to that which was being programmed and ordered by The LORD.

First, perhaps we ought to read the actual Scriptural reference which describes what was done following the defeat of the armies of the five kings from the Canaanite cities which had drawn up to attack the Gibeonites.

16. But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah.
17. And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah.
18. And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them:

The New Bible Dictionary item on Makkedah states "A town in the Shephelan captured by Joshua ... grouped with Lachish and Eglon ... ; named in Shishak's list (no. 27) and possibly in that of Tuthmosis III (no. 30). Adonizedek and his allies hid after their defeat in a cave near by ... El Mughar ('the cave'), 7 miles from the coast opposite Aijalon, has been proposed as its site; but there are many caves in this country, and Israelite occupation seems unlikely so far west. Eusebius ... put Makkedah 8 Roman miles from Beit Guvrin; this may indicate Khirber el-Kheishum, north-east of Azekah, a considerable ruin near a prominent hilltop with caves ... ."

19. And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand.
20. And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced cities.
21. And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel.
22. Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave.
23. And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon.
24. And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them.
25. And 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.
26. And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening.
27. 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.
28. And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain: and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho.
29. Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Libnah:
30. And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho.
31. And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, unto Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it:
32. And the LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein, according to all that he had done to Libnah.
33. Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining.
34. And from Lachish Joshua passed unto Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it, and fought against it:
35. And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish.
36. And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and they fought against it:
37. And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein.
38. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it:
39. And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king.
40. So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded.
41. And Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.
42. And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.

It is most noteworthy that it was all done as verse 40 records, "as the LORD God of Israel commanded", and thus not for the purpose of robbery for personal or national gain. Why, then, is the invasion important? We ought to consider the age-long ramifications of this invasion. The spiritual instruction to the whole subsequent sequence of generations yet to be born was involved in the projected plan of which this was simply one of the earlier stages. There will be spiritual symbolism threaded throughout all which unfolds, and reflections of earlier physical developments will resonate in all lands down through the rest of time, for it is all done in preparation for a far more important theme woven throughout the tapestry of time. There is an age-long plan which envisions the ultimate redemption of people in all nations, and the lessons being enacted with such bloody drama in those far-off days are done in order that we, and all subsequent generations in every race and nation will have the benefits of studying what there occurred and was recorded in the Holy Scriptures for our understanding and improvement. There will be more to see in these ancient acts than at first would appear. We hope to draw some of those lessons from the themes presented as our Bible Study sequence proceeds.

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