Bible Story Book Index
The Bible Story
Volume 2, Chapters 50 - 55
Joshua Now Leads Israel
As SOON as Moses and Joshua left the tabernacle, where God had instructed them concerning things to come, Moses hurried to his tent. He was to write down the matters that were to be made into a song to teach to Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:22.)
The Way to Happiness
Later, Moses went before the people to give them the verses that were to become a sort of national anthem to remind the Israelites of their faults, their obligations and the matters that would come up in the future. The verses mentioned God's perfect justice, mercy and great works, and showed how sinful Israel had become in spite of God's wonderful ways. The people were reminded of how patiently God had dealt with them during their travels in the desert, and of the terrible warnings that had repeatedly been given them. The verses pointed out that if Israel were wise enough to obey, all enemies would be overcome, but that lack of wisdom would result in great calamity for Israel. It was shown that Israel would have great reason to rejoice in the far future, but only after the people would have undergone a time of terrible tribulation and finally would have repented. (Deuteronomy 32:1-43.)
"Don't do what is right in your own eyes," Moses told the people. "Your conscience will deceive you. Let it be your ambition, above all things, to observe God's laws and teach your children to do the same. If you fail in this, your lives will become miserable and come to an untimely end. On the other hand, obedience will mean long, happy lives with prosperity, and wonderful futures for your children!" (Deuteronomy 12:8; 6:1-12; 4:30-31; 11:8-9; 31:6.)
Moses then pronounced a lengthy blessing on the various tribes of Israel, at the same time telling some of the things they would accomplish in the far future. (Deuteronomy 33.)
Moses ruefully ended talking to the people. He realized that the time had come for him to go to Mt. Pisgah to look across the Jordan and view the land of Canaan, which he would never enter. Accompanied probably by Eleazar, Joshua, the elders of Israel and some aides, Moses started out for the mountain, which was not far distant. When the congregation became aware that he was leaving forever, the people gradually broke into tearful moans and wailing. Moses was greatly moved by the loud demonstration, but there was nothing for him to do but go on.
A little later he noted that the great mass of people, still wailing, was following him toward the mountain. Moses knew that if the people weren't stopped, many of them would follow him right up the mountain. He hastily took advantage of a small rise, from which he could more easily be seen and heard, to firmly tell as many as could hear him that they should not follow any farther.
The wailing people obeyed. Moses and those who accompanied him continued on toward Mt. Pisgah, a point from which Balak, king of Moab, had asked the since-destroyed prophet Balaam to pronounce a curse on Israel.
Silently the group progressed up the mountain, while the sad wailing of the people drifted up strongly from the plains below. It was a strange fact that while the people were feeling sorry for Moses, Moses was feeling sorry for the people. The people were sorry to see Moses depart from them, and at the same time Moses felt concern for Israel because his close contact with God had resulted in his knowing Israel's fate even into the far future. He knew the people still had many bitter lessons to learn.
When at last Moses and the elders and officers arrived close to the peak of Mt. Pisgah, Moses turned to the people who had come with him and said a few last words of farewell. There were no dry eyes, even among those who were hardened soldiers and officers who had long served Moses. Moses said good-bye to them, and then walked alone up to the highest point of the mountain. >From there, through the clear atmosphere of that high mountain country, Moses looked across the Jordan and into nearby territory to clearly view the land where most of the tribes of Israel would settle.
Moses Views the Promised Land
From that elevation of several thousand feet, one of the highest points in the land, Moses carefully drank in the magnificent sight. He looked southwest and west across the area where the tribes of Simeon, Judah, Dan and Benjamin were to settle from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean. To the northwest he could see the region that was to be occupied by Ephraim, Issachar and half of Manasseh. To the north he viewed the lands to be taken over by Zebulon, Asher and Naphtali. Swinging his gaze to the east side of the Jordan, Moses saw the land already allotted to the other half of Manasseh, to Gad and Reuben.
Below him, stretching from the Dead Sea far to the north, was the beautiful Jordan valley with its lush bottom lands filled with fields, vineyards, groves of palm trees and other fruit.
"This is the land," the voice of God came to Moses, "that I promised to give to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Here it is for you to see, but it is not for you to enter. However, you will enter a better land in the resurrection to come. Now walk down the side of the mountain opposite the way you came up!" (Deuteronomy 34:1-4; Hebrews 11:1-15, 24-29, 39-40.)
A Final Farewell
Having feasted his eyes on the scene around him, Moses switched his gaze back on the mourning elders and officers who sadly gazed up at him. He waved, then turned and strode slowly out of their sight.
This was the last that was seen of Moses by human beings. He started down the other side of the mountain, but just how far he went, no one knows. Possibly God caused him to fall into a deep sleep, and then took his life. God then buried him in a nearby mountain valley in Moab. (Deuteronomy 34:5-6.) Satan attempted to obtain possession of Moses' body (Jude 9), probably with the purpose of bringing it to the attention of the Israelites so that they would make it an object of worship. However, God carefully hid the burial place from man, so that no one would ever be tempted to regard the body as something sacred that should be worshipped.
Some readers might think that it would be a very extreme thing to worship a dead body. But even today, when we are supposed to be enlightened and intelligent, millions of people in the professing Christian world regard the relics -- dried bones and shriveled flesh -- of certain long-dead individuals as something to be revered and considered holy.
Thus Moses' death ended, at one hundred and twenty years, the life of one of God's most outstanding servants of all time. Just before he died, Moses was as healthy and strong as when he was eighty years of age. Even his eyes were as keen as they had been in his youth. (Deuteronomy 34:7.)
No other leader of Israel accomplished such great deeds as did Moses. (Verses 10-12.) Because he was so close to God, he enjoyed the great privilege of leading millions of his people out of slavery, bringing God's wonderful laws to them, and leading them to the entrance of a bountiful garden spot that was to be their home.
Although there were too many times when they ignored God by ignoring Moses, all Israel was very sad to lose such a wonderful leader. For the next thirty days matters came almost to a standstill in the camps while the people mourned Moses' death. (Verse 8.)
In these days many people, including a host of outstanding religious leaders, consider the vitally important times and events of ancient Israel only as an old tale having to do with the Jews. They think of Moses simply as one who, not too successfully, may have led a few Jews out of Egypt and into Canaan, and who started the present Jewish religion.
Such shallow beliefs are spawned by the refusal to completely believe Jesus and the Old Testament, and the inability to understand who Israel is today. Moses didn't start the Jewish religion. The word "Jews" is not even mentioned in the Bible until long after Moses' time. Then the Jews were referred to (II Kings 16:6) as being at war with Israel! Those who assume that the words "Jew" and "Israelite" always mean the same thing find it impossible to understand some of the most important parts of the Bible -- especially prophecy.
It is tragic that innumerable people who sincerely want to learn how best to live are taught by such blinded or stubborn leaders that the sacred, living laws of God, brought to Israel through Moses, were only "Jewish" rules blotted out by Christ's death. They are misled to believe we are now "freed" to do as our conscience pleases.
Happily, according to prophecy for these last days, God is gradually opening the understanding of more and more people to the startling fact that those who defiantly teach that God's laws are no longer in force are as guilty in God's sight as the most villainous men mentioned throughout the scriptures. Unless they repent, the fate of such people, referred to as false shepherds, will be most horrible -- because of their deceitful posing as true ministers of God. (Ezekiel 34:2, 7-10; II Peter 2:12.)
God Speaks to Joshua
After Moses' death, God contacted Joshua to remind him that now that he was Israel's leader he should direct himself and the nation to live by all the book of the law of God. He was reminded that trust in the Eternal and obedience and courage, would mean success in battle over Israel's enemies and in taking over the land from the Great Sea (Mediterranean) east to the Euphrates River, and from the desert south of the Dead Sea to Mt. Lebanon on the north. (Deuteronomy 34:9; Joshua 1:1-4.
"I will not fail you nor forsake you as long as you carry on in accord with the laws that came to you through my servant Moses," God instructed Joshua. (Deuteronomy 4:30-31; Joshua 1:5-7.) "Meditate on those laws so that they will become so familiar to you that you can't forget them. Be strong in this office that has been given to you. Be of great courage. Don't be afraid. Don't be dismayed. Remember that your God is with you wherever you go." (Verses 8-9; Deuteronomy 31:6.)
This was one of the greatest "pep" talks ever given to one of the most responsible leaders in all history. If Joshua hadn't previously realized how much he should rely on God, he surely was completely reminded at that time.
"Prepare to Break Camp!"
As soon as the mourning period of thirty days for Moses was over, Joshua gave orders to his officers to make an announcement to the people. "Be prepared on notice to break camp within three days," the officers told the surprised people. "Prepare extra food and supplies for a sudden trip over the Jordan and into the land promised to us by God." (Verses 10-11.)
Although manna was still the main food of the Israelites, it wasn't something that could be gathered during a sudden movement of the people or a food that could be kept overnight except over the Sabbath. At this time when Israel was going to be on the move for a few days, it was necessary to prepare meat, fruit and grains, taken in their conquests, that could be carried and consumed at any time.
Joshua then spoke to the heads of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh -- who had by this time returned from settling their families east of the Jordan -- to remind them of their obligation to their brethren in the other tribes.
"I want to remind you of your promise to send the best soldiers of your tribes to help take over all of Canaan," Joshua told them. "We'll be moving across the Jordan very soon, and your picked soldiers should lead the way, since they will not have their families with them. After we've taken the land, your warriors shall be free to return to their towns and families on this side of the river." (Joshua 1:12-15.)
"We are sending the best of our soldiers to fight in God's battles," the leaders replied. "We shall carry out our promise. Our soldiers will go wherever you send them and obey every command. Every soldier that we send will know that if he fails to obey you, he will be put to death!" (Verses 16-18.)
Just west of Israel's camp was the Jordan River. It was exceedingly deep, as the flood season had begun. Only about six miles farther to the west was a walled and fortified city called Jericho. Joshua knew that it would be necessary to attack that city before progressing further into Canaan, because it was situated by the pass that led through the mountains. It was also one of the Canaanite cities God had commanded Israel to destroy because of its extremely evil practices.
Scouts Sent to Jericho!
Joshua realized that God wasn't necessarily going to protect Israel if any foolish moves were made. He knew that he was to use sound judgment and strategy. Because of this, he had already sent two men to Jericho to try to find out how well the city was armed, the condition of the walls and the gates, what forces were close to Jericho and the morale of the people within the city.
These two men quickly found how difficult it was to cross the Jordan at that time of year. It was spring, and showers had swollen the stream into a muddy torrent. Very few swimmers could cross a raging, turbulent river in flood stage. But these men had been chosen for their many outstanding abilities, including great skill in swimming, and they managed to struggle across the violent current to the west bank.
After drying their clothes, which were chosen to appear as those of roving Canaanites, they trudged the several miles from the river to the city. Jericho was surrounded by groves of palm trees, and well-traveled roads led to its several gates. The Israelites met several people on the first road they came to. No one seemed particularly friendly; some were even a little suspicious of their identity.
There was no problem in getting into Jericho. Its huge gates were open to traffic till sunset. The Israelites mixed in with a caravan that was entering the nearest gate, and boldly walked about to view the life and activity of this habitation of their enemies.
Jericho wasn't a tremendous city; it covered only about seven acres. But it was compact and had room for thousands of people. Within its four strong walls were many busy streets crammed with stables, shops, public buildings, homes and inns. Many shops, homes and inns were built on top of the double walls. People milled about everywhere. From their expressions and actions, it wasn't difficult to see that most of them were in a state of excited anxiety.
A few soldiers huddled in groups in the streets, but most of them were on the walls. The Israelite scouts noted that they were gazing mostly to the east toward the camp of Israel.
Hoping to get on the wall, the Israelites walked up a long flight of steps to one of the inns built there. The proprietress greeted them cordially and saw to it that they were well fed. While eating, they were startled by a loud clanging. The proprietress -- her name was Rahab -- explained that it was sundown, and that the huge gates of the city were being closed for the night to keep anyone from going out or coming in. The two Israelites suddenly realized that they were trapped -- at least until sunrise.
A little later officers sent by the king arrived at the inn and demanded of the servant to speak with the proprietress. The Israelites were just finishing their meal in another room, and didn't see the officers. However, they could hear all that was said. So could Rahab, the proprietress. (Joshua 2:1-3.)
"We have been sent here by the ruler of Jericho," the officers announced to a servant at the door. "He has received information that two Israelite spies were seen entering this inn. We are here to arrest them!"
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The Promised Land
THE TWO Israelite scouts sent to the city of Jericho were eating at Rahab's inn when officers banged loudly on the door.
"Two officers have come from the king of Jericho to arrest you!" Rahab whispered to them. "They're impatient and I must go to the door at once. I know who you are, and I have my reasons to help you. Hurry up this back stairway and hide yourselves under the flax you'll find drying on the roof!" (Joshua 2:1-4.)
The Israelites didn't waste time asking questions or waiting for more explanation. They dashed for the stairway, and Rahab turned to go to the officers.
Rahab Outwits the Soldiers
"If you're stalling us, woman, we'll have to take you along, too!" one of them snapped.
"I hurried back there to the dining booth to find out if any of my lodgers noticed which way the two men went," Rahab explained. "They were here, but they left just before the wall gates of the city were closed for the night. If they are Israelites, probably they're on their way back to their camp, and the soldiers could overtake them before they reach the river."
Rahab lied about these things, but God makes use of all kinds of people to bring about His purposes. In this matter He was using a Canaanite woman, who had never been taught God's Commandments.
The king's officers didn't spend any more time talking. They strode out of the inn and barked orders to nearby soldiers. Within a very few minutes, the gates swung open, and a searching party of soldiers scurried off into the darkness in the direction of the river. (Verses 5-7.)
As soon as the soldiers had left, Rahab went up to the flat roof of the inn to talk to the Israelites. She expected to find them well hidden under the flax on the roof. Instead, she found they were not yet fully covered.
"You're safe for now," Rahab whispered. "They won't be back for awhile. We Canaanites are well aware of your intention of taking over our country. I know that your powerful God will give you this land. Our whole city is frightened because you have so swiftly overcome nations to the east and southeast. We have been dreading the day when your soldiers come over the Jordan. Our terror is so great that no one has any courage left."
"If you believe that Israel is going to take over your land, why are you trying to protect us?" one of the Israelites asked.
Rahab Trusts in God
"Because I believe your God is the true God. Long ago we heard of the great miracles He performed, especially in causing the Red Sea to part so that your people could pass through it. (Verses 8-11.)
"I want to be spared by your soldiers," Rahab continued. "I have showed you kindness. Now promise me that your people will spare me and my close relatives -- the households of my father and all my brothers and sisters -- when this city is attacked."
"We promise to do as you ask," the Israelites told her, "if you will agree not to mention to anyone what has taken place here tonight."
Rahab solemnly assured them that she would keep the matter to herself. The Israelites then instructed her that she should tie a red cord, which one of the men gave her, in the window of her establishment, and that all her relatives should take refuge there when the soldiers of Israel would reach Jericho.
"Our soldiers will be told to spare the place where the red cord is," Rahab was told, "but if any of your family is outside your doors when we attack, we won't be responsible for them. On the other hand, if any of your family within your inn is harmed, we shall be responsible before God for that harm."
"So be it," the other Israelite muttered, "but these promises can't mean much if we don't get out of here tonight. We don't dare wait until daylight, and the gates will be barred all night."
For answer, Rahab motioned for them to follow her. They went downstairs to an open window facing outward from the wall. Rahab gave the men a bag of food and a long rope, and the scouts knew what to do. They tied one end of the rope to a ceiling beam and let the rest of it drop out the window.
"Don't try to return to your camp now," Rahab warned. "The area between here and the river will be swarming with our soldiers for many hours. Hurry to the hills west of here and hide there for three days. By that time it should be much safer for you to go back."
One at a time the Israelites slid down the rope, which more than reached all the way down the high wall. Rahab pulled the rope back up and waved to the men as they melted into the darkness. (Verses 12-21.)
It wasn't easy to travel over strange terrain at night, but the darkness wasn't intense enough to prevent the scouts from keeping on the move. The two fleeing men shortly reached the white limestone hills, where they found a number of caves. They chose one next to a small water spring, and for the next three days it was their hideout home.
The Scouts Report to Joshua
At the end of three days the two men set out eastward during darkness to successfully reach the Jordan. There they waited for daylight, and again managed to swim the river. From there it was only a short distance to the Israelite camp and safety.
Joshua was pleased at the report of the scouts, especially because it showed the shattered morale of the Canaanites. As for Rahab and her family, Joshua readily agreed to the promise that this one Canaanite family would be spared. (Verses 2224.) Joshua knew that God's death sentence upon Canaanites did not apply to those who willingly forsook their heathen gods and put their faith in God. After all, the reason God had condemned the Canaanites was because they were the worst sort of idolaters. (Deuteronomy 9:4; 12:29-32.) Those few who repented, as Rahab did, were to be shown mercy. (Genesis 12:3.)
As soon as Joshua had finished hearing the report, he told his officers to take word to the people that they should prepare to break camp next day.
Great activity followed. Flocks and herds grazing outside the camp had to be rounded up. Families packed their possessions except what was needed for meals and a night's rest.
Early next morning the Israelites finished breaking camp. The tabernacle tent, fence and all that went with the tabernacle were packed for moving, and the Israelites set out on a march toward the river. The trip took almost all day, and took them away from the acacia groves near Mt. Nebo, but into more groves of palm trees. They stopped just before arriving at the river, and set up camp again on the east slopes leading down to the Jordan.
Although the Jordan wasn't a large river such as the Nile, those Israelites who were curious enough to go on down to it were greatly impressed by it because it was the largest river the new generation had ever seen. At that time of year, due to spring rains and the melting of the snow in the high mountains to the north, the Jordan was swift and swollen to overflowing by the silty waters.
Those who saw the river returned to tell their neighbors what it was like. Only the very strong swimmers could hone to make it across the Jordan, and building rafts or a bridge would require so much time that all the armies of Canaan could concentrate at the spot and easily ruin such a project! However, this was to be no problem for Israel, because God had already given private instructions to Joshua so the people would realize God was with Joshua as He had been with Moses.
A Miracle Needed!
Next morning Joshua told the priests they should personally take up the ark of the covenant and bear it to the river ahead of the Israelites. (Joshua 3:1-7.) Ordinarily the ark was carried in the center of the mass of people, and was borne by Levites who were the sons of Kohath. (Numbers 2:1-31; Numbers 4:15.)
As God commanded, Joshua then told the priests that they should wade into the edge of the overflow water only a foot or so with the ark, and then stand still while God intervened in the flow of the river.
Meanwhile, the evening before, Joshua asked the people to gather together to listen to what he had to say.
"All of you should make yourselves and your garments clean for what will happen tomorrow," he told them. "Before us there is a swift and swollen river to cross. I have already heard that some of you may not think that it's possible to cross it. Have some of you lost faith in your God, who brought you out of many situations far worse than this one? Now be assured that God will again prove to us His power by taking us safely over the river. The ark of the covenant will be carried to the river before you by almost a mile. When those who carry the ark walk into the Jordan, the stream shall cease to flow past the ark! That part of the water to the south shall drain away, leaving a waterless river bed over which we shall cross to the west bank! This should show you that God possesses all the strength and means to get us safely over the river, to drive out our enemies before us and deliver Canaan into our hands!" God made sure that no one entered the promised land with doubts and misgivings.
Joshua then instructed the twelve tribal leaders that each should select a husky man from his tribe and send him to Joshua for a special task. Every man selected, when he passed over the river bed, was to pick up a good-sized stone from the rocky river bottom and carry it to the west bank for building a monument. (Joshua 3:8-13.)
The Jordan Flows Backward!
Early that morning the priests started out with the ark. None of the Israelites followed until the priests were almost a mile away, which put them at the edge of the river. They probably hesitated for a minute or so on the east bank, then walked boldly into the swift, muddy water. Every man realized that unless God acted within seconds, men and ark would be swept away downstream.
Before they could wade in up to their knees, the water flowed away to their left. At the same time the water to their right abruptly ceased flowing. In fact, its direction of movement was actually reversed! As the priests continued to march into the midst of the Jordan, it gradually grew higher and spread farther out on its flooded banks to the north.
Thus, with water receding in both directions, a growing expanse of empty river bed was exposed to the view of the marveling priests and those of the waiting Israelites who could see the miracle from a distance.
The bearers of the ark went in to the middle of the river bed and then obediently stood where they were. They felt deep gratitude for being allowed to have a part in such a great miracle. When Joshua had made certain that all was ready, he signaled the Israelites to move on to the river.
It required a long time for close to two million people and their tremendous flocks to pass any given point, the specific number of hours depending on how wide their ranks were. In this event, even though the river bed was emptied for such a great distance, and gave the people plenty of room to spread out, probably the people were pouring over the Jordan for several hours. (Verses 14-17.)
Whatever the time needed, the priests, who were rugged outdoor men, patiently remained standing where they had walked into the water. They didn't move out of the river bed until the last of the Israelites had passed over, including the lead group of 40,000 soldiers sent by the two and a half tribes already settled east of the Jordan to help take Canaan.
One probably would wonder how men could remain standing so long, especially while holding the ark. Perhaps God gave them special strength to stand for such a long period while bearing a weight.
Except for the priests, the last to pass over the river bed were Joshua, his aides and the twelve men who had been picked to obtain stones from the middle of the river bed for a monument on the west side of the river. Before they picked the stones for that purpose, Joshua had them erect a twelve-stone memorial in the Jordan where the priests had stood so long with the ark. To make this possible, the priests naturally had to move forward a short distance while the men worked.
After the monument in the river was finished (it was still visible in the river many years later when the Bible account was written), each of the twelve men took up from the river bed a stone as large as he could carry and walked out to the west bank.
Promise Miraculously Fulfilled
Behind them came the priests, and as soon as they had carried the ark well up on the west bank, a peculiar murmuring sound came from the north. Within seconds the murmur grew into an alarming roar. The waters that had been held back for so long had abruptly been freed, and came rushing and boiling down the river channel with a thunderous swishing noise! (Joshua 4:1-18.)
This mighty miracle of God, plainly foretold by Joshua, had a deep effect on the Israelites. They realized now that Joshua, like Moses, had been chosen by the Creator as an outstanding leader. Their respect for him was very great from that day on. (Verse 14.) The Israelites also realized that God had now completely fulfilled His promise to take all of this new generation over the Jordan into the promised land.
Again the congregation fell into moving order, this time with the ark carried by Levites in the center of the column. The people traveled straight west a few miles and stopped to make camp. It was there that the twelve stones carried from the Jordan were stacked up into a monument. Joshua then came before the crowd to speak to as many as could hear him.
"This heap of stones is to be a reminder of God's great miracle in bringing us across the river," he announced. "Tell your children in time to come what it means. Remind them that God also brought Israel across a much greater body of water -- the Red Sea. This monument is also to remind all peoples who see it or learn of it that our God is to be greatly feared and respected."
Regardless of Joshua's reference to God's strength, there were some people who stared fearfully toward the west as night came on. They felt uneasy because the west edge of Israel's camp was only a little over a mile away from the forbidding walls of the strongly fortified city of Jericho!
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Walls of Jericho Fall
IT was on the tenth day of the first month (Nisan in the spring -- not January in the winter) that Israel crossed the Jordan River and made camp in Canaan at a spot called Gilgal. The west border of the camp wasn't much more than a mile from Jericho, a thick-walled city swarming with enemy soldiers. (Joshua 4:19-24.)
Israel's First Passover in Canaan
It had been just forty years before -- minus five days -- that Israel had fled from Egypt. (Exodus 12:18, 29-34, 51; Numbers 14:26-35; Deuteronomy 1:3; Joshua 5:6.) The Exodus had started after the first observance of Passover. Now again it was almost time to prepare for another Passover. But before it should be observed, God told Joshua that most of the males of Israel should undergo a physical rite that had been required as a sign and seal of the covenant between the Creator and Israel.
After the Passover, which fell on the seventh day of the week that year, the people observed the Days of Unleavened Bread by eating no bread with leavening in it. One of their main dishes was roasted grain that had been taken from the fields of their enemies. This was only one item of food that had been acquired since entering the region of the Jordan. In fact, so many edible things had been taken in recent days that Israel's food supply was sufficient to keep them without gathering manna. As a result, manna, which had been the main food for forty years, ceased to appear on the day after the Passover. (Joshua 5:2-12.)
Meanwhile, there was no sign of Canaanite soldiers except those who could be seen in the distance on the walls of Jericho. Nevertheless, enemy spies kept a close watch on Israel. Their reports on the parting of the river spread quickly to every ruler in that section of the world. These leaders were greatly concerned by this amazing event. They had felt temporarily secure from Israel because they had considered the Jordan practically impossible to cross during its swollen condition.
The king of Jericho was especially worried. Even though his fighting force was composed of many fierce men skilled in battle, the very numbers of Israelites camped so close to his city were enough to make his nights sleepless. (Joshua 5:1.)
To make certain that no more Israelite spies could get into Jericho, he gave orders that the gates of the city should close and remain closed twenty-four hours a day. No one was to be allowed in or out -- except, if necessary, a few special spies of his, and they were let down the walls on rope ladders and brought up the same way.
This was a costly precaution, because it meant turning away caravans arriving from other lands with valuables and food. The king reasoned that it was wiser to remain bottled up with what food was on hand rather than take the slightest risk of allowing any Israelites to enter Jericho in disguise. (Joshua 6:1.)
Joshua Meets the Lord
A few days after Israel had arrived in Gilgal, Joshua went alone, despite the protests of some of his officers, toward Jericho. He wished to see for himself what the place was like at closer range. He suddenly found himself face to face with a sturdy man holding a gleaming sword and gazing intently at him. Joshua strode boldly up to him.
"Are you a friend of Israel or an enemy?" Joshua bluntly inquired of the stranger. (Joshua 5:13.)
"I am not an enemy," the man replied in a firm voice. "I am here as the commander of the army of God!"
It required several seconds for Joshua to realize that he was actually gazing at the Lord, the very One who later also came to this world in human form to be known as Jesus Christ, and who also appeared to Abraham as Melchizedek, king of Salem!
This was Joshua's closest contact with God. He fearfully fell forward and placed his forehead on the ground.
"What would you ask of me, my Lord?" Joshua humbly inquired. We know this man was the Lord -- a member of the Godhead -- because he allowed Joshua to worship Him. Angels never allow God's servants to worship them. (Revelation 22:8-9.)
"Your feet are on holy ground," was the answer. "Remove your shoes and I shall tell you how to take Jericho."
Joshua lost no time in obeying. Then he carefully listened to the instructions from God. (Joshua 5:14-15.)
"Return to your camp and carry out the orders I have given you," he was told. "If you do just as I have told you to do, it won't be necessary for you to storm the walls or gates of Jericho in order to conquer it, even though many fierce fighting men are garrisoned within that fortress."
Inspired and encouraged in what he should do, Joshua returned to camp. Once he turned to gaze back to where he had been encountered, but there was no one there!
As soon as he arrived back in camp, to the relief of his officers, Joshua told them and the priests of his unusual experience and of God's plan to take Jericho. (Joshua 6:2-7.)
Siege of Jericho Begins
Next day the king of that city was startled by the dreadful news he had been expecting.
"Sentries have just reported seeing many persons on foot approaching from the Israelite camp!" an officer announced.
Surrounded by anxious aides and officers, the king hurried to the east wall. When he saw the growing columns of people marching toward his city, he nervously barked out orders for all soldiers to take their battle stations, and for all civilians to get off the walls and streets and out of the shops and into their homes or shelters.
As the Canaanites continued watching, they became discouraged, confused and relieved in turns. The foremost of their approaching enemies marched just close enough for discerning that they were soldiers. Then they veered to the left and moved along to the south of the city.
"Why should they give us such a wide berth if they intend to attack?" one officer asked.
"Perhaps they don't intend to attack," another observed. "Possibly they're just moving on to the west."
"That hardly seems possible," the king muttered. "They've taken every city from the Arnon River to Mt. Hermon!"
Rising hope that Israel was moving out and by-passing Jericho was abruptly downed when the foremost Israelite soldiers turned north to parallel the west wall of the city. A little later they turned back eastward to distantly flank Jericho's north wall.
The city was being surrounded by thousands upon thousands of Israelites!
Why they remained at such a distance baffled the Canaanites. Another mystery was the presence of seven long-robed horn blowers marching behind the first large segment of the moving column. As they marched, they held up carved trumpets called "shopharim" which were made of rams' horns, and emitted shrill blasts that echoed from the hills to the west. Behind the horn blowers marched four more robed men carrying what appeared to be a large box. The Canaanites had no way of knowing that this object was the ark of the covenant, and that the other seven robed men were priests who had been instructed to blow special horns. This was the only sound that came from the Israelites. It was frightfully puzzling to their watchers, because it was the usual habit of soldiers on the march to shout or sing. In this case, the Israelites had been told not to utter a word during the marching around Jericho.
For well over an hour the Canaanites uneasily watched the enemy parade. It required somewhat more than that for any part of the marchers to pass around Jericho and return to the Israelite camp. Jericho's ruler remained on the wall, gravely puzzled as to the meaning of such a weird demonstration. (Joshua 6:8-11.)
"Didn't anyone here think to try counting them?" he impatiently asked.
Canaanites' Fear Mounts
"We have estimated that about one hundred thousand passed around the city, sir," an officer spoke out. "As you know, our spies have reported that Israel has at least five or six times that many soldiers."
"Spies are not always right," the king murmured. "This performance today seems to me to be only an effort to display manpower that isn't necessarily there. How do we know that all of them were men? Most of them could have been women and children dressed as soldiers. Why did they parade at such a distance unless they fear our spears, arrows and catapults? If they don't come closer, they can't harm us. Even as besiegers, they would have to hold out many days before our supplies are exhausted, and that isn't the pattern of their operation."
These weakly optimistic remarks from the king did little to generate hope or enthusiasm in those about him. The next day, however, brought a little relief to the Canaanites from their fears when dawn showed no evidence of further siege preparations.
Before long, however, it was observed that Israelites were again approaching Jericho. Renewed excitement and fear reigned in the city for awhile. Then, as they had done the day before, the Israelites swerved southward, later continuing westward to march at a distance from the south wall, swinging north around the west wall, going eastward past the north wall and back to their camp. Meanwhile, there was no chant, shout or song from the Israelites. The only sound was that from the seven horns, whose continuous piercing tones carried loudly to the Canaanites in an irritating, suspenseful and nerve-wracking manner.
"This is obviously some kind of enchantment by which Israel is trying to overcome us without attacking us," the king of Jericho proclaimed to his people after the Israelites had finished their second day of marching around the city. "Why should we allow enchantments from these foreigners to bother us? I have heard that they have only one God. We have many gods to protect us."
Next day the Israelites appeared for the third time to march around Jericho in the same manner and at the same distance. As usual there was the strange box-like object and the seven men going before it while blowing their horns.
On the fourth day the same thing happened. By now many of the Canaanites were becoming increasingly fearful because they didn't know just what to expect. Some believed that a great, consuming fire might fall from the sky. Others were afraid of all kinds of calamities. Some, in an effort to hide their growing fears, began to joke about the Israelites.
Next day the Israelites came around again. This time, although the ruler of Jericho wasn't completely in favor of it, the soldiers lining the tops of the walls lifted their voices in loud taunts to the Israelites to come closer. The ruler didn't wish to do anything to rouse the ire of the enemy, but at the same time he felt that his soldiers' morale could be sparked up if they were allowed to deride Israel. The marchers could plainly hear the challenges, but they remained silent except for the blaring of their seven horns.
For six days the Israelites marched once around the city in the early morning of each day. (Joshua 6:12-14.) On the sixth day the Canaanites shouted even louder at the Israelites as they passed around the city, though they actually believed that if the whole Israelite fighting force should accept their dares and attack, losses by the Canaanites would be much greater than any harm they could inflict upon Israel.
"This is a silly, time-consuming, childish game these people are playing," Jericho's ruler announced to the people and soldiers in an effort to boost morale. "Their intended enchantment failed to work the first time, and now they are merely repeating it again and again in the hope that it will finally take effect. It should be plain by now that these people cannot harm us by such means." The city's king just couldn't understand God's plan of battle.
Israelite Tactics Change
Inasmuch as the Israelites had been encircling Jericho a little after sunrise each day, Canaanite sentries were surprised when they saw the marching column approaching at early dawn on the seventh day. High officers feared that this might indicate some drastic change in Israel's plans, and the king was immediately notified of what was happening outside the wall.
The Israelites went around the city in the same manner as usual, but the more interesting fact was that instead of returning to camp, they began to encircle the city again. In fact, they spent almost the whole day marching around Jericho. By mid-afternoon they had made six rounds and were starting on the seventh. (Joshua 6:15.)
At this point another unusual thing happened. Hundreds of thousands more soldiers had strode out from Israel's camp and now joined the marchers. The bright, palm-studded plains around Jericho gradually grew dark with the growing immensity of armed forces.
The challenging hoots and shouts that had been coming from the Canaanites gradually died away when Israel's military strength was displayed. Many people within the city fell into a state of panic when they realized how many fighting men were confronting them. This fear and panic spread like a contagious disease, only much more rapidly. Even the ruler and his officers were grim-faced and nervously silent. No jeering taunts or attempts to belittle Israel's might could boost the Canaanites' morale now that they were faced by the stark cold fact of Israel's true strength. The people in Jericho felt doomed.
It was late afternoon when the Israelites finally finished marching around the city for the seventh time. At this juncture the ark and the trumpet blowers were just east of Jericho. There they stopped, and all the other marchers came to a halt.
Greater tension gripped the Canaanites. Jericho's ruler, who had been squirming in anxiety in a chair inside one of the wall towers, came slowly to his feet. He stared unblinkingly out at Israel's silently threatening throng.
At that moment the seven horn blowers, who had not sounded for several minutes, blew an unusually long, high blast. This was followed by a chilling surge of shouts from the people surrounding Jericho, those in Israel's camp and the many who were spread out between, as Joshua had commanded them to do. (Joshua 6:16-19.)
The noise that resulted from the millions of throats was like the thunder and hiss of a tidal wave crashing against a rocky cliff.
Within seconds, however, the vast din of voices was drowned in another noise -- an ominous, deep rumble approaching like the growing reverberation of the hoofs of millions of swiftly approaching horses!
Those on the walls felt a sickening sway. Those inside the city were aghast to see widening cracks appear in the cobbled and bricked streets. Screaming people began to pour out of the buildings. Those on the walls began to race down steps and ladders to a firmer footing.
But it was too late to find safety. The walls, as well as the streets, were already cleaving.
In the midst of the ear-splitting clatter, the king and his officers were among the first to realize, in their last moments of life, that the mighty God of Israel didn't even recognize the puny, powerless gods and idols of this world. (Deuteronomy 4:39; Isaiah 45:5; I Corinthians 8:5-6; Isaiah 2:20-21.)
Then the walls of Jericho reeled violently outward and crashed down with a deafening roar. (Joshua 6:20.)
Skeptics used to ridicule this miracle. But the skeptics were wrong. Jericho's wall did fall down flat.
Archaeologists have found the ruins of Jericho just where God said the city was. And after carefully excavating the site for several years, world-famous archaeologists found that the earth had preserved an amazing record of God's miraculous destruction of Jericho.
The walls of the city that fell in Joshua's day could clearly be seen to have fallen OUTWARD and FLAT, as the Bible stated in Joshua 6:20. This record has been described in many books dealing with Jericho though the date assigned for the collapse of the wall is not usually correct. In only one place was the wall left partially standing. That must have been where Rahab's house was built, because God had promised to protect her and her family because of her faith. (Hebrews 11:30-31.)
Bible Story Book Index
One Man's Sin
THE THUNDERING collapse of the walls of Jericho was no great surprise to the Israelites. They had been told by God, through Joshua, what to do and what would happen. Even so, it was a chilling experience to witness the death of thousands as they tumbled with the walls. (Joshua 6:16-20.)
The Israelite soldiers knew what to do at that point. They broke from their ranks and rushed into the spreading clouds of dust, scrambling over the rubble in a tightening circle to hem in all the Canaanites who hadn't died in the collapse of the walls. The Israelites swiftly obeyed the strict order to slay every human being and animal in the city.
Only One Family Spared
The only people spared were Rahab, the inn proprietress, and her close relatives. Because Rahab had determined to quit serving pagan gods and learn to obey the true God, and had acted on her new faith, God listed her in the faith chapter of the New Testament among those who trusted in God and are promised a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:31, 35.)
Rahab and her relatives were in the inn at the time of Jericho's fall, and though the inn was built on the wall, that particular portion of the wall was miraculously spared. A group of soldiers, led by the two scouts who had promised protection to Rahab, went up the inside of the piece of wall and brought Rahab, those related to her and their possessions to a safe place outside Israel's camp. (Verses 20-23.)
The account of the perishing of the idolatrous inhabitants of Jericho by God's command is an episode, among many others, that various religious leaders in high offices declare should be removed from the Bible. They feel that God used poor judgment in allowing such accounts to be written into the Scriptures. But in reality, when God had these wretched idolaters destroyed, He was actually showing them mercy. In the judgment they and other ignorant idolaters will be resurrected and given an opportunity to learn God's way to peace and happiness. (Matthew 12:41, 42; Revelation 20:11-12; Isaiah 65:19-25.)
The Israelites had already been warned not to take any booty of any kind from Jericho except articles of gold, silver, brass and iron, which were to go into God's treasury. Everything else and everyone in Jericho was accursed, but items made of these metals could later be purified by fire. These things were carefully sought out and set aside to later go into the treasury of God's sanctuary. No one was to keep any of these things for himself, nor was anyone to take for himself things such as clothes, food, precious stones, animals and so forth. Any person who took any personal booty was to become accursed by God, and would bring such a curse on Israel that all would suffer. (Joshua 6:17-19.)
After the metals had been removed, the Israelites set fire to Jericho. Although most of the walls and many of the buildings had been built of stone and bricks, a great part of the city was made up of heavy beams, poles, planks and boards. There were other flammable materials, but the wood alone was enough to produce a tremendous fire in which dead Canaanites were at least partly cremated. (Verses 24-25.)
As for that standing portion of the wall on which Rahab's inn was located, it came crashing down when the wooden beams supporting her house were burned.
By now darkness had come on. Carrying their booty, the Israelites turned from the blazing ruins and returned to camp.
Next morning Joshua called a meeting of the elders and officers.
Jericho's Desolation a Memorial
"Pass on the word to all the people," Joshua informed them, "that no man should ever rebuild Jericho. It could present a strong temptation, what with the great wall stones and wells remaining there. Anyone who reconstructs the city will fall under a curse from the Creator, and he shall become childless. His oldest child shall die when he lays the foundation and his youngest shall die when he sets up the city gates. Let the ashes and stones of Jericho be a monument to the destruction that will come to all idol-worshippers." This prophecy was fulfilled about 500 years later when a very foolish Israelite rebuilt Jericho. (I Kings 16:34.)
News of the fall of Jericho spread swiftly over the land, and Joshua became famous in that part of the world because of his leading Israel to take the city. Consequently, fear of Israel mounted in the surrounding nations. (Joshua 6:27.)
The next city Joshua intended to conquer was called Ai. It was about twelve miles from Jericho in a westerly direction, and though it was considerably smaller than the destroyed city, Joshua had no intention to by-pass any fortress that might later prove a source of trouble.
Again scouts were used to obtain information. When they returned from Ai, they reported that this Amorite fortress wasn't very large or strong, and that it would be no great problem for Israel to attack and destroy it.
"It won't be necessary for all or even a great part of our army to attack this place," the scouts told Joshua. "The walls aren't very high, and it is too small to contain very many fighting men. Two or three thousand of our soldiers should be able to conquer it." (Joshua 7:2-3.)
At first it seemed to Joshua that it would be risky to send such a small number of soldiers, but then he began to wonder if he would be showing a lack of faith in what God could do for Israel by sending ten or twenty times as many men as the scouts suggested. After all, the scouts he sent were chosen from among his best officers and were men of good judgment. Joshua concluded that it wouldn't be necessary to send more than three thousand men.
A few hours later the Israelite soldiers emerged from the caravan road leading up from the Jordan valley, and saw the city of Ai atop a ridge. It was evident that they could be plainly seen by the Amorites, and that a surprise attack would be impossible. Nevertheless, the Israelite soldiers were confident because of what God had done for them at Jericho, and they marched boldly up to Ai. Their leader was certain that the Amorites would surrender when they were told to give up without a fight or be set upon by the whole Israelite army.
Tragedy at Ai
Suddenly the gate of Ai swung open, and thousands of screaming Amorite soldiers rushed out at their would-be attackers!
The Israelites had supposed that the inhabitants of Ai would be quaking with fear, and this abrupt turn of events so surprised them that they momentarily froze in their tracks. By the time they got into action, spears and arrows from the onrushing Amorites were raining into the ranks of the Israelites, and some of these weapons were finding fatal marks. On top of that, rock catapults atop the wall had gone into operation, and huge stones were thudding among the Israelites.
"Where is the help and defense God promised us?" was the question that crossed the minds of most of the Israelite soldiers. It was being made shamefully obvious to the Israelites that God's protection, since the crossing of the Jordan, hinged upon their obedience.
Faith in their Creator swiftly fled, and so did the Israelites. Instead of fighting back, they turned and raced away through a hail of stones, arrows and spears. This cowardly move spurred the screaming Amorites to greater boldness, and they pursued their enemies all the way back through the defile which contained the road by which the Israelites had come.
When at last the routed and panic-stricken Israelites were clear of their pursuers and could group safely together, they found that the Amorites had slain thirty-six of their number and had wounded many more.
It was a dejected and disgraced piece of army that returned to camp. When the people heard what had happened, their confidence in God tumbled to a new low. They couldn't understand why God would promise them swift victory over all their enemies, and then allow about three thousand of their soldiers to be disorganized, chased and crippled by the idol-worshipping Amorites. (Joshua 7:4-5.)
In those days it was the custom to show regret, self-reproach or humiliation by tearing one's clothes and tossing dust upon his head. That was what Joshua did when he heard what had happened. He was so upset and discouraged that he called the elders together before the tabernacle to join him until sundown in prostration and an attitude of repentance.
"Why have you brought us over Jordan to let us fall into the hands of the Amorites?" Joshua inquired of God as he lay with his face to the ground inside the tabernacle. "It would have been better for us to stay on the east side of the river than try to attack our enemies here and end up fleeing in terror from them. When all the Canaanites and other nations hear of this, they shall decide we are really weak, and shall come with their combined forces to surround us. We shall be destroyed, and the great name of our God shall be disgraced!" (Verses 6-9.)
"These things haven't happened because of any unfaithfulness on my part," God replied. "My orders were that no booty should be taken from Jericho for personal gain. I warned Israel that anyone who did so would become as accursed as Jericho's people, and that a curse would fall on all Israel as a result. Someone has gone against my will in this matter, and a curse has fallen on this nation. That is why the attempt to conquer Ai was a failure. My help and strength was not with the soldiers, nor will my help be with Israel again in any attempt to overcome your enemies until you remove and destroy the guilty one."
Joshua was surprised and shocked when he heard this. It hadn't occurred to him that the defeat of his soldiers could be due to someone obtaining booty from Jericho and hiding it.
"Get up and tell the people what has happened," God continued. "Tell them that they cannot successfully face their enemies until the guilty one is removed, and that they should wash themselves and be ready to appear before you tomorrow while the guilty one is found." (Verses 10-15.)
Joshua obeyed, and next morning the heads of the tribes gathered before the tabernacle and drew lots to learn what tribe had the guilty person. The tribe of Judah drew the telling lot. Then it was up to the heads of the families of Judah to draw lots. The head of the family of the Zarhites drew the unwanted lot, and next it was the turn of the household heads of the Zarhites to draw lots. According to the manner in which God caused the lots to be drawn, the household turned out to be that of Zabdi.
The men of the household of Zabdi solemnly gathered together to do their part. The vast crowd of silent onlookers knew that one of these men was responsible for the death of thirty-six men, the injury of many others and the swift and humiliating retreat of the Israelites from Ai. (Verses 16-18.)
The Guilty Man Found
The lot indicating guilt was drawn by a man by the name of Achan, referred to in other scriptures as Achar. (I Chronicles 2:7.) Long before the lot was drawn, it was evident to many bystanders that this man was the one being sought. His face grew more drawn and his expression more frightened as matters proceeded.
The pale and shaking Achan was brought before Joshua. "Don't try to hide your evil deed," Joshua advised him. "Honor your God by confessing what you have done."
"I -- I didn't realize at the time how much I was sinning against the God of Israel!" Achan tearfully burst out as he fell to his knees and bowed his head. "I was tramping through the rubble of Jericho with other soldiers when I stumbled by myself into the remains of what surely had been the dwelling quarters of a wealthy Canaanite family. When I looked around and saw many valuable things that could increase my family's living standard, I didn't think it would greatly matter to take some of them, especially because most of them would be burned and wasted. One of the things that caught my eye was a beautiful Babylonian robe that shone as though it were woven of golden threads from a rainbow. I stuffed the robe under my jacket, scooped up a handful of silver coins from a chest, grabbed some small object that looked as though it were solid gold, jammed these things into my pouch and then climbed out of the place to join the other soldiers." (Joshua 7:19-21.)
"Where are these things now?" Joshua queried. "I buried them in the ground inside my tent," was the painful reply.
Joshua immediately rushed officers to Achan's tent. They returned within a few minutes to show Joshua a costly Babylonish type garment, a number of silver coins and a small, wedge shaped bar of gold.
Joshua was aware of the unpleasant event that had to follow. According to God's orders, Achan and his family, his livestock and his possessions -- including the things he had stolen -- were taken to a spot well outside the camp of Israel. There Joshua again confronted Achan to ask him why he had been so thoughtless and disobedient as to bring so much trouble on his people.
"I didn't mean to bring on what happened," Achan murmured. "I just didn't take God's warning seriously concerning how much one person's sin can affect others!"
Those were Achan's last words. He was led away to be stoned to death in the sight of his family and thousands of others.
Then he and all his possessions were burned and a great heap of stones was piled over his body. Since he had tried to enrich his family by rebellion, his family had to stand by and watch all their livestock and other property destroyed as a warning to all. (Joshua 7:22-26.)
Joshua returned to the tabernacle to humbly ask God to be merciful to the Israelites and strengthen them against their enemies.
"Don't be discouraged," God told him. "Now that the accursed man has been removed, I have removed my curse and my anger. Now take the army and go to the city of Ai. Use some of your men to bait the Amorites into coming out. Hide the greater part of the army so that they can surprise the enemy. Then you will see how I shall deliver Ai and all its people to you!" (Joshua 8:1-2.)
Bible Story Book Index
Conquest of Bethel and Ai
GOD'S promise to Joshua to help in a second attempt to conquer the Canaanite city of Ai swiftly brought Israel's leader out of his state of discouragement. Joshua immediately chose thirty thousand soldiers for the strategy he had in mind.
"I'm not sending you to directly attack Ai," Joshua informed the officers who were to be in command. "Late tonight you are to take your soldiers toward Ai. Guides will show you the way. Do not go far from the city. Go around it to the west side and conceal yourselves in the rugged country behind Ai toward Bethel, which is a few miles west of Ai. I shall send others before dawn. Be very careful that no one can be seen from Ai or from the city of Bethel to the west. I shall go with a few thousand to be in the valley just north of Ai when the sun comes up. When the people of Ai discover us, they will rush out to attack and we will flee from them. When you who are hiding west of Ai see me waving a bright banner from the end of my spear, you will know that it is time to rush into Ai and set the city on fire. The huge fire will attract the attention of our pursuers. The 5,000 soldiers on the west and the troops on the north side of the valley are then to move swiftly in on the confused enemy." (Josh. 8:1-13.)
It was well after dark when the thirty thousand fully equipped foot soldiers set out to the northwest. Guides led them to a safe hiding place just west of Ai. Every effort was made to muffle the stomp, clank and jingle of marching men as they moved into the heights between Ai and the adjoining city of Bethel.
When at last the soldiers reached an area where they could hide, they rested for the remainder of the night. The only fires allowed were small ones hidden under overhanging rocks that would eclipse any show of light.
Joshua remained at the Israelite camp at Gilgal until after midnight. Then he set out with the elders of Israel and officers and the remainder of the soldiers. In the early morning hours they arrived on the north side of Ai. By the time he arrived, it was not far from dawn. There wasn't any time to be lost in preparing for what had to be done.
"Take five thousand soldiers and move in between Ai and Bethel before sun-up," Joshua instructed some of his officers. "Make sure no one from Bethel hinders our conquest of Ai."
Joshua and his "bait" forces moved down into the valley north of Ai just before dawn.
Ai Caught Off Guard
When light came over the area, guards on the wall of Ai were startled to see that military forces were approaching the city from the north side of the valley. Word was sent to the king of Ai who was still feeling victorious because his soldiers had previously routed what was considered an invincible army.
When the king witnessed the Israelites approaching on the plain, he became very excited. Here, he thought, was a golden opportunity to twice vanquish the dreaded enemy that had invaded Canaan. Any city or nation that could put Israel on the run two times would be regarded as gloriously heroic and powerful. Flushed with the thought of a second victory, the king lost no time in ordering most of his men out to clash with the Israelites before they could reach Ai.
The north gate of the city swung open, and out rushed the howling troops of Ai to head swiftly down into the valley and directly toward the Israelites. Intending to make a great name for himself as the leader of the forces that would overcome the feared Israelites, the king of the city rode out with his men. When the two forces were only a few hundred feet apart, the king noticed that the Israelites suddenly came to a halt. It seemed that they were getting ready to make a stand, but when they turned and ran off eastward in the direction of the Jordan River, the ruler of Ai could scarcely believe his eyes.
"We've got them on the run already!" one of the king's officers shouted.
"Send a man back to the city!" the king shouted back excitedly. "Tell him that I order every man there, and also the soldiers from Bethel, to join us at once and wipe out the Israelites even if we have to drive them all the way to the Jordan!"
Still at a safe distance away in the valley, Joshua and the soldiers with him continued to move away in feigned flight. When Joshua saw a second regiment pouring out of Ai, he was certain that there couldn't be many more men, if any, remaining in the city. (Joshua 8:14-17.)
The time had come for Joshua to wave a bright banner attached to his spear. The signal was seen by sharp-eyed lookouts west of Ai. They motioned to the 30,000 men hiding about and below them. Within minutes the thirty thousand Israelite soldiers were racing into the unmanned city.
Already the men of Ai and Bethel were too far away to hear the loud screams of the women and children whom they had left undefended. They were shortening the distance between themselves and the Israelites, and contact and victory appeared to be only minutes away when one of the officers moved close to the excited king and gestured frantically toward the rear.
Idolatrous Canaanites Trapped
The king looked around, and his expression of almost gleeful anticipation faded from his face. He gave a signal to halt. The bewildered soldiers came to a stop and looked about to see why they had been ordered to stop. Then all of them saw the smoke and flames belching up from inside the walls of Ai!
"We've been tricked!" the king roared. "Get back to the city!"
When Joshua saw the Canaanite soldiers stop and set off in the opposite direction, and saw smoke billowing up from Ai, he again waved the banner he had been holding. The men with him suddenly turned on the Canaanites. The thousands of Israelite soldiers hiding at the north rim of the valley opposite Ai leaped out of hiding and stormed down the slopes at a right angle to the path of the enemy troops racing back toward the cities of Ai and Bethel. The 5,000 in hiding on the west plunged toward Bethel.
Then out of Ai rushed the thirty thousand Israelites who had set the fires in the streets of the city to lure the enemy soldiers back. Joining the other troops they set off directly toward the oncoming troops of Ai and Bethel. At the same time Joshua and the men with him began pursuing the Canaanites westward.
Boxed in on three sides by rapidly approaching troops, the Canaanites had to stand and fight or race madly about trying to find a way of escape to the south. Those who tried to fight were quickly wiped out. Those who tried to flee up the south slope of the valley were overtaken and slaughtered. The only man to be captured alive was the king. (Joshua 8:18-23.)
Leaving thousands of dead bodies littering the valley, the Israelites converged on Ai and destroyed the rest of the pagans who remained there. Not until then did Joshua lower the banner that waved from his spear.
Things of value were removed from the city, and then it was burned. As for the king of Ai, he was hanged on a tree as a punishment for his gross idolatry. At sunset his body was cut down, tossed on the ground before one of the gates of Ai and covered with a large heap of stones. News of the king's disgraceful end was certain to swiftly reach other rulers of nearby cities, communities and nations, and thus add to the fear and terror growing in that region of paganism.
What was more likely to impress the other nations, however, was that twelve thousand Canaanite men and women perished that day. (Verses 24-29.)
A Blessing and a Curse
After the victors had returned to Gilgal with their booty and had rested a few days, Joshua declared that a special ceremony would be held in an area several miles north of Ai. All Israel made the journey over rough country, the ark being carried along as usual. The only ones who didn't go along were a few soldiers to watch over the camp and take care of the animals.
The people congregated on the slopes of two neighboring high points, Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, as Moses had commanded them (Deuteronomy 11:29-30.) They watched and listened as the sacred ceremonies took place. An altar was erected on Mt. Ebal, of unhewn stones as God had commanded. (Exodus 20:25.) Burnt offerings and peace offerings were made there. Joshua read to the people the many blessings that would come to them through obedience, and the cursings that would come to them through disobedience. These things were written on the stones of the altar.
The laws from God, given through Moses, were also read to the people in this solemn assembly. The voices of the readers on the mountains rang out with miraculous, far-reaching volume to the more than two million scattered over the area, to remind them of how God wanted them to live, and of the tremendous importance of being obedient. (Joshua 8:30-35.)
At the end of the reading of the laws, six tribes on Mt. Gerizim summarized God's blessings for obedience. Then the other six tribes on Mt. Ebal echoed the curses that would surely befall Israel if they broke the law. (Deuteronomy 27:1-19.)
After the ceremonies the people camped and then started the return trip to Gilgal.
Israel made this journey into enemy territory and back without encountering so much as one enemy soldier. However, the movements of the people weren't unnoticed, and the rulers of the land became more distressed when they heard of this greater penetration into Canaan.
For centuries the small nations of the region of Canaan had warred among themselves and slain one another. Now that a foreign enemy had entered the land, the rulers put aside their differences and decided to pool their fighting forces and put up a united front against Israel. Israel had no knowledge of these particular plans, though Joshua and his officers were aware that such a thing could happen. (Joshua 9:1-2.)
While this threat to Israel was being organized, several dusty travelers one day approached Gilgal with their burros. Alert Israelite guards went out to stop them, but brought them into the camp to meet Joshua after they requested to visit with the leader of the Israelites.
"We are ambassadors from a distant nation," a spokesman for the strangers declared. "We have heard how your people have come up from the south to conquer the nations in this part of the world. We have come a long way to meet you and to ask you to promise our nation, because we are peaceful people, that you will not carry on war with us if ever you reach our borders." (Verses 3-6.)
"You men could be from any of the enemy nations close around us," Joshua told them. "We need proof that you are from this distant nation you have mentioned. Otherwise, it would be foolish to make a promise to you that we would refrain from attacking your nation."
"We assure you, sir," the spokesman replied, "that we are not from any enemy nation. We will be your servants. We have been sent here by the leaders and people of our country -- a distant one -- to tell you that they have heard of the fame of your great God. They are aware of how He dealt with the ruler of Egypt, and how He helped you become victorious over the Amorites and the kings of Heshbon and Bashan. When our people realized how your God helped you in these battles, they knew that it would be foolish to try to stand against you, so they sent us to ask you to promise not to attack a country so respectful of your power and your God."
"It could be as you say," Joshua said, "but as genuine ambassadors you should have some credentials or proof of whom you are."
Logical Sounding Lies
"We were purposely not given any," was the reply. "Our superiors knew that if we were stopped by soldiers of any of our neighboring nations, and if it were found that we were ambassadors on a secret peaceful mission to Israel, the neighboring nations would then consider our nation as an enemy. In fact, for the sake of our country's safety, we were told not to even mention the name of our people. Our superiors hope that this matter can be worked out with our remaining completely nameless for the sake of safety, extreme as it seems. Then, if ever Israel arrives at our borders, we shall make ourselves known."
"I've never heard of anything like this," Joshua murmured to his officers as he shook his head. "I think it's time to end this conversation and send these men away."
"Something occurs to me, sir," the spokesman for the strangers suddenly remarked. "Perhaps we can at least prove that we are from a distant nation if you will examine our clothes and the few things we have with us!"
"Here is something worth considering," an officer whispered to Joshua. "A careful examination of these men's possessions might give us some valuable clues as to how far they have come."
After a minute of thought Joshua nodded his approval. The strangers were taken out to where their burros were tied, and all that these men had was carefully examined by competent officers. A few minutes later the officers reported to Joshua.
"Obviously they actually have come a long way," Joshua was told. "Their clothes are dusty and stained with days of travel. Their shoes are well worn as from many miles of walking. Even the sacks on their burros are old-looking as from many hours of exposure to wind, sun and dew. Their empty leather wine bottles are dried out and cracked. They brought out what food they had left. It was hard, moldy bread they claimed was freshly baked the day they started out for here." (Joshua 9:7-13.)
To Joshua and his officers this seemed fair evidence that these men had come a great distance from a foreign land.
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"And the Sun Stood Still"
JOSHUA and the elders had just received men who claimed to be ambassadors from a far away land. They came to seek peace. If so, reasoned the elders, then there would be no particular harm in promising not to attack a nation that wasn't included among the enemy nations of Canaan. Although these men looked like swarthy Canaanites, Joshua knew that some similar tribes had gone to other lands, especially north Africa, to live.
The elders of Israel were told of these things, and it was decided that it would be well to do what the strangers asked, and promise no harm to their nation. This was carried out in a solemn ceremony with Joshua, the strangers, priests and elders present. However, though there was an element of doubt present in this matter, God wasn't consulted. (Joshua 9:3-15.) God's warning against making peace with Canaanites was temporarily neglected, and Israel's leaders paid more attention to these strangers than to God.
New clothes and provisions were supplied the strange ambassadors. After they were given food and overnight lodging with the Israelites, they thankfully and smilingly set off to the north to their mysterious nation.
"Send several armed scouts to follow them without being seen," Joshua ordered. "I am curious to know just where they came from."
It wasn't expected that the scouts would return for many days, and it was a surprise when they returned early on the third day.
"It wasn't necessary to be gone any longer," they reported. "The men we followed went north for a few miles, then turned west and went directly to the Hivite city of Gibeon about twenty miles to the west. If that is their home, then Israel has promised to spare a city or nation well within the promised land!" (Verse 16.)
"We have been tricked!" Joshua muttered. "Get fifty thousand troops ready to move, and we'll go straighten this matter out!"
Having been informed that the strange men claiming to have come from a distant nation had gone to a city only about twenty miles from Gilgal, Joshua was quite perturbed. These men had exacted a promise from Joshua that Israel would not attack their country. Now it was quite evident that their "country" was an area well within the bounds of Canaan, and God had instructed Israel to destroy all nations, cities and people within those bounds. Obviously these men had tricked Israel into a sacred promise to spare their people, which was against God's will.
The many thousands of Israel's soldiers quickly assembled at Joshua's command. Led by scouts who had followed the men responsible for tricking Israel into a peace pact, Joshua and his soldiers spent three days in arriving at their destination. It was the walled city of Gibeon, the capital of a district of swarthy people called Hivites. Four Hivite cities, including Gibeon, had joined in this strategy in seeking peace with Israel. (Joshua 9:16-17.)
The Israelite soldiers moved boldly within the shadows of the walls of Gibeon, but there was no sign of soldiers on the walls to protect the city.
"Send men to the gate with this message," Joshua told his officers. "Have our men tell them that those men who came to see us in Gilgal must be sent out to speak with us right away."
A group of soldiers went to the nearest gate and loudly repeated Joshua's request. There was a response only a few minutes later. The gate swung open, and out walked the men who had come to Gilgal posing as strangers from a distant nation. A few Hivites of high rank accompanied them. Behind them was a crowd of Hivites silently watching to see what would happen. The "ambassadors" sheepishly walked up to Joshua and his officers.
"Why did you go to all the trouble of trying to fool us into believing that your native land was quite distant instead of within our land only a few miles from our camp?" Joshua asked them. (Verse 22.)
The Hivites' Excuse
"We have heard about how you have wiped out your enemies," a Gibeonite officer explained. "We didn't want to be counted among them. The city of Gibeon here, and three other Hivite cities to the south -- Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjathjearim -- formed a secret alliance to seek a promise from Israel's leaders that you would not attack us. We heard that you are a fair and honest people, and would keep any vow you might make.
"We became aware that your God commanded you to destroy all the people of this region, and we were so alarmed that we tried to carry out the only plan we thought might save us. But we aren't begging for freedom now. You have us in your power to deal with as you wish." (Verses 24-25.)
Joshua was in no hurry to make any decision. Yet he knew if he wiped out their cities, he would be breaking the pledge that the leaders of Israel had made before God as a witness. There was no other choice. Israel had made a binding agreement and would have to pay the price of letting these Hivites remain in their land.
Joshua dismissed the Gibeonites, set up camp near Gibeon and held a conference with the princes of Israel.
When the main body of Israel heard the decision of the elders and Joshua, many of them were disappointed. Some were even angered, and sent spokesmen to the elders to voice their feelings. (Joshua 9:18.)
"It is not right to allow these pagan Hivites any mercy!" shouted one of the spokesmen. "God has commanded us to destroy them!"
"God will punish us if we fail to attack those four Hivite cities at once!" another yelled heatedly. "Why are our leaders defying the Creator in this matter?"
There was much murmuring among the assembled thousands after these remarks, which were not necessarily made because the speakers desired obedience. So much wealth had already been taken from their enemies that a part of Israel had become greedy, and those were the ones whose ire was roused because of being deprived of the booty of the Hivite cities.
Hivites Made Perpetual Laborers
Ignoring the loud protests, the elders told the people that Israel should stick to the agreement not to attack the Hivites, but that Israel should make the inhabitants of the four cities bond-servants of Israel to serve in the physical needs of the Levites. This would keep them in close contact with God so that they would never return to idolatry. (Verses 19-21.)
When the troops who had accompanied him heard what Joshua was about to do, even some of them muttered in disappointment at being deprived of the excitingly profitable opportunity of plundering the Hivite cities.
Joshua called the rulers and chief officers of the Hivites before him and made this proclamation:
"Though you have sought peace and have recognized our God as great, you tricked us. Therefore you are cursed. No longer shall your mighty men of war bear arms. Instead, they shall become wood choppers and water bearers for us. When our people take over this area, your people shall join us and work as bond servants. Your tasks will be especially for those in service for our God wherever He shall have us build His altar. You have no choice but to accept these conditions." (Verses 22-27.)
"These are bitter terms for our warriors and the people of all four cities," the leader of Gibeon spoke out. "However, we feel it is better than being destroyed because of our sins. We know your greater forces and your great God are too powerful for us to face, and we must humbly bow to your will." (Verse 25.)
The Hivites should have considered themselves quite fortunate to remain alive under the circumstances, but it is generally human nature to hope for more than is received, and there was a tone of bitterness in the voice of the Gibeonite leader.
Having ended these matters with the Hivites for the time being, Joshua and his many soldiers headed back toward Gilgal. They little guessed that they would very soon be racing back toward Gibeon. We shall now see why.
For many centuries there had been a city in the land of Canaan known as Salem. During the days of Abraham a King was there whose name was Melchizedek, Who visited Abraham and blessed him after he rescued Lot and other captives from a group of marauding kings. (Genesis 14:17-20.) Melchizedek -- Who was later to become Jesus Christ in human form -- ruled from Salem as long as the patriarchs -- Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- dwelt in Canaan. Later He ceased to rule from there when the children of Israel were in Egypt. In the days of David, Melchizedek again chose Jerusalem (another name for Salem) as the city from which to rule His people.
The name Melchizedek means King of Righteousness. (Hebrews 7:1-3.) At the time the Israelites entered Canaan, the ruler of Salem -- then called Jerusalem -- was a Canaanite, Adoni-zedek, a sinful king who pretended to be "Lord of Righteousness" -- a king who put himself in place of the true King of Righteousness -- Jesus Christ or Melchizedek.
A Plot Against the Hivites
News of the fall of Jericho and Ai brought fear to the ruler of Jerusalem, especially when he learned of the pact between Israel and the four Hivite cities just a few miles from Jerusalem, because Gibeon was one of the stronger cities of the area -- even stronger than Ai. (Joshua 10:1-2.) Adoni-zedek realized that other cities of Canaan must immediately band together to stand against the Israelites, or be defeated.
The proud king of Jerusalem sent messengers to the rulers of four neighboring Amorite cities. These were Hebron (where the Israelite scouts went on their return trip through Canaan about forty years before), Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon, and were located in an area only a few miles southwest of Jerusalem. Adoni-zedek suggested they all join forces and invade the Hivite cities to punish them for making peace with the Israelites. (Verses 3-4.)
When the kings of these cities received Adoni-zedek's plea for their armies to join his in an attack on Gibeon, they agreed at once to send all their soldiers northward. Their forces were united on the way to Jerusalem, where Adoni-zedek's troops were added. Together these thousands of well-trained warriors marched onward to a spot just south of Gibeon, where they camped and readied their equipment for an attack on Gibeon, because the Hivites were now their enemies along with Israel.
When the Gibeonites saw these combined armies streaming up from the south, they sent swift messengers to race to Gilgal to ask for help from Israel.
While the messengers sped toward the Israelite camp, the armies from the south set up powerful catapults and ramming devices with which to assault Gibeon, and prepared long ladders and ropes for scaling the walls. Night was not far away, however, and the Gibeonites felt certain that no attack would be made until dawn.
The messengers from Gibeon arrived at Gilgal before nightfall, and were given an immediate audience with Joshua.
"Thousands upon thousands of Canaanite troops of the Amorite tribe were approaching Gibeon when we left!" they excitedly told Joshua. "Perhaps by now they have already attacked our city. As your servants, we beg you to send up at least a part of your great army to save us!" (Joshua 10:5-6.)
Joshua Had Learned His Lesson
Joshua wasn't inclined to give the messengers a quick answer. He wondered if the presence of so many fighting men could mean that Israel might run into deep trouble as punishment for not consulting God in the matter of making an agreement with the Gibeonites, or if God had forgiven him and the elders when they repented.
Not wishing another unpleasant situation, Joshua this time went into the tabernacle and prayed to God to give him a clear picture of what should be done.
"Don't be concerned about that army preparing to attack Gibeon," came God's answer. "Not one man of those many thousands will come out alive after I punish them!" (Verse 8.) Now Joshua knew God had forgiven him and the elders.
Thus encouraged, he was convinced that he should go at once to the aid of the Gibeonites. He gave orders to his officers to assemble the army of Israel for immediate action. By nightfall the troops were assembled and ready to march.
Gibeon was about twenty miles west of Gilgal, and though they had a rough, uphill road between the two places, the Israelite army picked its way to the hill country through the night, and arrived within sight of Gibeon at dawn. (Verses 7, 9.)
Coming over a rise at the head of Israel's troops, Joshua and his officers saw that the Canaanite troops from the south were just starting to move closer to Gibeon for their assault on the walls. Catapults were being pushed forward, scores of men were carrying metal-nosed logs with which to batter the gates, and thousands of archers, swordsmen and spear-bearers were marching within striking range of the walls.
"Draw up our troops to attack the invaders of Gibeon at once!" Joshua told his officers. "Keep the troops out of sight behind this rise, move north of Gibeon so that we can't be seen, and then divide up and swing around the east and west walls to surprise them!"
Minutes later hordes of Israelite soldiers raced around the walls of Gibeon to rush in among the troops moving against the Hivite city. The attackers were so surprised by this sudden onslaught by the Israelites that they halted in their tracks, then turned and fled in the opposite direction. The Israelites pressed in against them. So great was the slaughter that bodies were strewn for miles along paths that led northwestward, southward and southwestward from Gibeon.
All this didn't happen in just a short while. Many of the enemy soldiers tried to hide in ravines and among the rocks, and time was required in searching them out. The Israelites had orders to let no enemy fighters escape, regardless of how far they had to be pursued.
In fact, the main part of the enemy troops to escape the first attack had to be pursued as much as thirty miles to the southwest. (Joshua 10:10-11.) Part of the way was through a long, deep ravine. Then there was a steep ridge to go over, and next a rocky, rugged road so precipitous in places that steps had already been cut in the rocks.
By the time the enemy had been pursued even part of that distance, however, the morning was half spent. Joshua became concerned about being successful in destroying all the enemy troops before dark, after which any who were left would surely succeed in escaping. Already exceptionally heavy clouds were moving over the sky, which meant that darkness would come on even sooner than usual.
A Mighty Miracle
"Cause the sun and moon to stand still so that the day here will be made long enough for us to overcome our enemies," Joshua prayed to God. (Verse 12.)
The battle continued. It was no small matter to flush out enemy troops from their hiding places as the area of fighting moved steadily southward. Meanwhile, the sky became darker, and it appeared that an unusually strong storm was likely to break in the region just south of Gibeon. Between thick. Scudding clouds the pale sun showed through at times. There was nothing unusual about that, but two or three hours after Joshua's unusual request of God the Israelites began to be aware that the sun was still in a morning position!
As the afternoon wore on while Israel kept up the bloody pursuit, it was noted with increasing awe that the sun still had not moved. In fact, it stayed in the midst of the sky for so long that daylight was extended by about twelve hours! (Verse 13.)
Did God actually stop the Earth from rotating for twelve hours? We are not told. With God all things are possible. If this planet in a few minutes ceased turning, God must have performed a miracle much like the braking of a modern jet airplane upon landing. Remember, the Earth's surface is turning at a speed of one thousand miles an hour at the equator and more slowly as one approaches the poles. There was never another day like this one. Many religious leaders have argued that time was lost back at the battle near Gibeon, and that as a result the Sabbath was moved from Saturday to Sunday. Not so. THAT day did not become another day. It was merely an extra-long day of 36 hours.
The lengthened day was a reason for wonderment and fear among both Israelites and Canaanites. Even Joshua was awed by what happened. God honored an outstanding prayer in an outstanding way because He was fighting Israel's battles. (Verse 14.)
Even so, Joshua was concerned about conquering all the enemy troops, many thousands of whom were well ahead of the Israelites. It appeared that they would escape while Israel was being delayed in sending out small groups in every direction to overtake enemy soldiers who had fled to the sides of the retreat paths to the south.
Then came another miracle from God. The sky grew increasingly darker. Lightning flashed above the Canaanite retreaters. Ear-splitting thunder reverberated between the mountains and through the deep ravines. From the black clouds came a strange, hissing sound. The fleeing Canaanites looked up in inquisitive terror, and it was then that the power of God descended from the sky on them with deadly force!
The hissing sound from the sky was short warning to the Canaanites as to what was about to happen. Suddenly there was stinging pain from sharp blows on their heads and shoulders. Many were killed outright by falling objects. Others were beaten to the ground to quickly die as their prone bodies were exposed to more blows.
Some were able to reach the shelter of protruding rock ledges, and from there witness that they had been caught in a terrible shower of giant hailstones!
Within a few minutes almost all the Canaanite soldiers and their animals were battered to death. Then the tremendous shower of heavy hailstones miraculously stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Some of those who had been spared managed to escape and take refuge in nearby cities, but most of them either died of their wounds or were later caught and slain by Israelite soldiers. (Joshua 10:8-11.)
Shortly before this event produced by God, the five kings of the five Canaanite cities, fleeing southward near Makkedah with their troops, held a hasty conference.
"There is no hope of holding out against the Israelites," the king of Jerusalem remarked fearfully. "Our men have no more desire to fight. They're frightened because it is still daylight, whereas the sun should have gone down hours ago. Israel's God has something to do with this awesome thing. I propose that the five of us hide in one of the caves in this area, and let Israel pursue our troops. Then perhaps we can return later to safety."
The other four leaders quickly agreed. They gave orders to their officers to proceed without them. Taking scant provisions, they hurried away from their men and sought out an insignificant cave some distance up the side of the ravine through which they had been moving. (Verses 16-17.)
They had been in hiding only a short while when the storm of giant hailstones struck. They realized that their remaining troops would hardly survive such an onslaught from the sky, but they were more concerned about themselves than about their men.
What they didn't realize was that God had no intention of allowing them to escape. When the pursuing Israelites arrived to find dead Canaanites scattered throughout the ravine, a search was made for possible survivors in the rocks, defiles and caves. One soldier was as startled as were the five kings when he walked into the cave where they were hiding. He ran to notify Joshua at once, who gave orders to deal with them immediately. (Verse 18.)
A short while later, as the occupants of the cave peered out at the main body of Israelite soldiers moving on to the south, they were surprised by large stones rumbling down from above and thudding in a growing heap on the ledge at the mouth of the cave. Almost before they realized that many men must be rolling the rocks from overhead, they found themselves trapped by a solid bank of stones much too great to be removed from the inside!
Meanwhile, at Joshua's command, the Israelites moved southward to seek out and slay most of the few enemy troops not killed by the storm of gigantic hailstones. They pursued them as far south as the city of Makkedah, where they temporarily camped.
Then Joshua sent men to the cave where the five kings were trapped. The men removed the stones piled there, seized the prisoners and took them to a spot part way between the cave and the city of Makkedah. There were a number of trees there, and five of them were chosen for a grisly purpose. The five kings were killed and their bodies hanged on the trees till sundown. Then they were cut down and taken back into the cave where they had tried to conceal themselves. For the second time great stones were piled against the mouth of the cave, this time to form an infamous burial crypt for the five men who had tried to lead their armies against Israel. (Verses 19-27.)
While the five kings were still hanging on the five trees, Joshua and his troops rushed into Makkedah and slew all the people and disposed of the king of that city in the same manner accorded to the ruler of Jericho. (Verse 28; 6:21.)
In the days that followed, Joshua and his troops stormed over the southern region of Canaan to attack and overthrow a number of cities. The idol-worshipping inhabitants were slain and the leaders killed and hanged -- all according to God's instructions. God wanted idolatry and child-sacrifice completely eliminated throughout Israel's land. Included in these cities was Hebron, the place Israelite scouts had passed through four decades previously.
The campaign that had started out as a move to defend the Gibeonites turned into a tremendous victory for Israel. Successful because of God's help, the soldiers returned to Gilgal with a great wealth of the spoils of war -- household goods, tools, implements, livestock and farm produce. (Joshua 10:29-43; Joshua 11:14,16.)
The defeat of the armies of these cities didn't mean that all of the southern part of Canaan was conquered. There were still more cities and tribes to take over in that region. Even after many more military operations by Israel's army during the next year or two there were still a few fortresses and armed areas to subdue.
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