The Fourteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Joshua
The Gibeonites made a very wise decision. They heard all about what YHWH, the true and living God, had done to Israel’s enemies. The Gibeonites knew that it was YHWH’s intention to cast them from Canaan. In an act of self-preservation, the Gibeonites sought to make a peace-treaty with Israel before their people (the Hivites) were completely wiped out. But the four kings who followed Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, chose poorly. As recounted in the 10th chapter of Joshua, God gave Israel an amazing victory over these five Amorite kings who banded together and attacked the Gibeonites because they dared enter into a covenant with Israel. Throughout Joshua’s account of the pitched battle covering more than twenty miles, which resulted in the total destruction of all those who rejected the true and living God, God is giving us a sneak preview of Christ’s second advent and that final day yet to come, when the kings of the earth once again hide in caves to avoid the glory of the Lamb. Israel’s conquest of Canaan is a graphic picture of the day of final judgment. But it is also a picture of our Sabbath rest, when we receive our glorious heavenly inheritance, the theme of our text.
We return to our series on the Book of Joshua and the account of Israel’s conquest of the land of promise. We have made our way through the first twenty-seven verses of Joshua 10. We will make our way through the balance of chapter 10 and all of chapter 11. By the time we come to the end of this section of the narrative, we will read that “Joshua took the whole land,” including both the southern and the northern portions of Canaan. Israel will receive the promised inheritance. And God will keep his covenant promises to his people. At long last, the people of Israel will have blessed rest.
Before the people of Israel can receive the promised inheritance, the Canaanites must be wiped out as YHWH commanded. As we saw in the first part of chapter 10, YHWH had told Joshua not to fear these five kings nor any of the Canaanites–despite the ferocity of their armies–because YHWH would give them all into Joshua’s hands. When the combined Amorite army surrounded the Gibeonites (their former allies), Joshua led Israel’s army (several hundred thousand strong) in a daring night march, catching the Amorite forces surrounding Gibeon by complete surprise. The army of Israel then attacked and drove the fleeing Amorites some twenty miles toward the city of Makkedah. Having been totally routed by the armies of Israel, the Amorites then fell victim to a massive hailstorm sent by God which killed more Amorite soldiers than the Israelis had killed. It was a dramatic victory for Israel and after this remarkable day, no one in Canaan would ever remember Israel’s embarrassing defeat at Ai.
When the pitched battle between the armies of Israel and the five Amorite kings finally ended at Makkedah–more than twenty miles from where it started at Gibeon–the five kings hid in a cave. But they were quickly caught by Joshua’s men, subjected to having their captor’s heels placed on their necks, put to death and their bodies hung on trees, and then buried in the same cave in which they had hidden. While the first phase of the battle was now over, Joshua must press ahead to destroy seven important Canaanite cities to the south–securing that flank–before engaging yet another large Canaanite coalition to the north. This is why this period of biblical history is known as the Conquest. YHWH will fight for his people and the army of Israel will conquer all of Canaan in a bloody and relentless campaign.
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