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<061101>JOSHUA 11:1 – 12:24 A CHALLENGE MET Before developing the central theme suggested by the verses which are now to be before us, let us offer a few comments upon their setting. “And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent” a message to many of his fellow kings, and they, with their armies, met together to fight against Israel ( Joshua 11:1-5). It has been pointed out by another that “Jabin seems to have held in northern Palestine a similar position of power and influence to what Adonizedek king of Jerusalem did in the south.” If the reader refers back to Joshua 10:1-5, he will find that that king had done precisely the same thing, except that his assault was made not directly against Israel, but upon the Gibeonites who had made peace with them. It is a trite remark to say that “history repeats itself,” nevertheless it is one which casts an unfavorable reflection upon fallen human nature, for it is tantamount to acknowledging that one generation fails to profit from the faults of those who preceded them and avoid the fatal pits into which they fell. What proof that all are “clay of the same lump ( Romans 9:21), and that “As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man” ( Proverbs 27:19). “When Jabin... had heard these things.” Once more we meet with this important word: compare Joshua 2:10; 5:1; 9:1, 9; 10:1; and note the various reactions of those who received such tidings. It is true that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” ( Romans 10:17), yet it is also a fact that “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” ( Proverbs 20:12).
True alike both naturally and spiritually, for morally man is both deaf and blind to the things of God ( Matthew 13:13,14), and therefore the voice of mercy is disregarded and the sinner perceives no beauty in Christ that he should desire Him. To his need and to the remedy he is alike insensible.
Until a miracle of grace is wrought within him, his imagination is darkened and his heart closed against God. That is why multitudes that hear the Gospel with the outward ear profit not, and those who are saved under it and receive it into their hearts do so solely because God has made them to differ from their unbelieving fellows. Jabin “had heard” of the destruction of Jericho and Ai, but instead of trembling thereat he hardened his heart.
Thus do sinners rush madly to destruction, notwithstanding the repeated warnings they receive from the deaths of their godless fellows.
That which is recorded in the beginning of Joshua 11 looks back to and is the sequel of what was briefly noticed by us in Joshua 9:2. That was preliminary, a consulting together, and probably a determining and promising how strong a force each king was prepared to contribute unto the common cause. This was the materialization of their plans and the actual taking of the field by their armies.
Up to that point the Canaanites had acted more or less on the defensive, but upon hearing of the overthrow and burning of Ai they determined to take the offensive. First, the various kings mentioned in Joshua 11:1-3, considered that now their own interests were seriously threatened it was time to unite their forces and make a massed attack upon Israel. Second, the king of Jerusalem and his satellites agreed to fall upon the Gibeonites.
The latter was the first to be carried into execution, and, though it met with failure and the utmost disaster, Jabin and his confederates (which appears to have included all the Canaanites to the utmost western and northern borders) were undeterred, and instead of casting themselves upon Israel’s mercy determined to destroy them in battle.
This “league of nations” or uniting together of several kings and making common cause was no new thing even at that early date, for Genesis 14:1-3, reveals that centuries before there had been what might well be designated “the western bloc of nations” assailing “the eastern power and its tributaries.” But this movement was to meet with no more success than had the concerted measures taken by Adonizedek.” And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many” ( Joshua 11:4). A real challenge was now made to Israel’s further occupancy of the land, and a most terrifying sight must it have presented to the natural eye. This vast assembly was not only far more numerous than any force which Israel had previously encountered, but it was much more formidable and powerful, being provided with a great number of horses and chariots, whereas Israel’s army was on foot ( Deuteronomy 17:16): note the absence of the mention of horses in Genesis 24:35; 26:14; Job 1:3 — they are seen first in Egypt ( Genesis 47:17).
As a protest against the slavish literalism which now exists in certain circles, and as a demurrer against those who insist that the words of Revelation 7:9, “a great multitude, which no man could number,” mean exactly what they affirm, a few words require to be said upon our being told that the assembled hosts of the Canaanites were “even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude.” One had supposed that any person of average intelligence and education would at once perceive that such language is hyperbolical, and therefore not to be understood according to the strict letter of it. Such a rhetorical figure is frequently used in Scripture for the purpose of producing a vivid impression. Thus, in the days of Moses the Lord declared He had multiplied Israel “as the stars of heaven for muItitude” ( Deuteronomy 1:10). When the Midianites assailed Israel it is said, “they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number” ( Judges 6:5) and “as the sand by the sea side for multitude” ( Joshua 7:12). The Philistines who gathered themselves together against Saul are described as “the sand which is on the sea shore in multitude” ( 1 Samuel 13:5). When God’s judgments were on Israel He declared, “Their widows are increased to Me above the sand of the seas” ( Jeremiah 15:8). Nineveh is said to have multiplied its merchants “above the stars of heaven” ( Nahum 3:16).
Thus, “as the sand which is upon the sea shore” is a proverbial expression to signify a great number. Before such massed armies Israel might well be affrighted, especially since they were at such a disadvantage, entirely on foot. In the light of Judges 4:3, it is highly probable that the chariots commanded by Jabin were of iron, and, as was customary of those used by the ancients in warfare, armed with terrible scythes, to cut down men as they drove along. Doubtless such a host would be fully assured of an easy victory, but they were to discover, as others both before and since have done, that “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong” ( Ecclesiastes 9:11). The size and might of this assembly only made its overthrow the more notorious and demonstrated more evidently that it was the Almighty who fought for Israel. Since they were the aggressors, Israel were fully justified in destroying them. In like manner will God in the day of judgment have abundant cause to cast into hell those who have rebelled against Him and strengthened themselves against the Almighty ( Job 15:25).
We entitled the preceding article “Challenged” and concluded by pointing out that the last verse of Joshua x shows us Israel at Gilgal — the place of conscious weakness and of communion with God — and that while there the enemy could not harm them. In substantiation of that statement, we quoted the opening verses of Psalm 91. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (verse 1). Without attempting to indicate the typical allusions of that figurative language, or entering into any niceties of exposition, suffice it to say that spiritually it signifies that they who live in close fellowship with God are in the place of safety and security. No evil can reach them there, or, as Spurgeon expressed it, “the outstretched wings of His love and power cover them from all harm.” “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust” (verse 2).
That was the inference the Psalmist drew from that fact, the application he made to himself of that blessed promise. Confiding in the Lord, resting on His word, he knew that he was fully protected from all the storms of life and the malice of his foes. No matter how many, how powerful, how relentless his enemies, he was resolved to trust in Him who was his covenant God, his all in all. “Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day” (verses 3-5).
In those words we are permitted to hear the Psalmist’s holy soliloquy, assuring himself that, regardless of what form the enemy’s attack should take or when it came, he had an unfailing shield in the Lord, and therefore there was nothing for him to fear. And that is just as true today, my reader, as it was three thousand years ago. He who unreservedly places himself in the hands of God is perfectly secure in the midst of all dangers — infallibly so in connection with his soul, and reasonably so in regard to his body — and therefore should he enjoy full serenity of mind when his godless fellows are filled with alarm and terror. But let it be carefully noted that verse 1 is the foundation on which rests all that follows. It is only as close communion with God be maintained that the soul will be able to confide in and rely upon Him in seasons of stress or peril. While we dwell in the secret place of the most High, the most skillful deceiver cannot beguile nor the most formidable foe harm us.
The greater the dangers menacing God’s people, the greater support may they ask for and expect from Him. The more entirely their hearts be fixed on Him as their strength and deliverer, the more certainly shall their spiritual enemies be subdued by them. See this most strikingly exemplified here in Joshua 11: “And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel” (verses 5, 6).
First, let us observe that Jehovah here made good the word that He had given through Moses: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee... to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” ( Deuteronomy 20:1,4).
How this reminds us of the declaration, “He is faithful that promised” ( Hebrews 10:23)! One of the titles which Deity has taken unto Himself is “The faithful God” ( Deuteronomy 7:9). How safely then may He be relied upon! None ever yet really trusted Him in vain. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel.” Very striking indeed is that statement and most blessed. Does the reader perceive its real force as he weighs its connection with what immediately precedes? Surely it is apparent: the challenge made by the Canaanites was not simply against Israel, but against Israel’s God! It is like what we find in the opening chapters of Job, where something very much more than a satanic attack upon that patriarch is in view. The evil one dared to assail Jehovah Himself, for when He asked him, “Hast thou considered My servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” we are told that “Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for naught?
Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land” ( Joshua 1:8-10).
What we have just pointed out is made yet plainer in Satan’s next words: “But put forth Thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face” — so far from adoring Thee because of Thy personal perfections, Job merely renders a mercenary service for what he gets from Thee. Base insinuation was that: Job is Why dutiful servant not because he has any love for Thee or genuine regard to Thy will, but from selfish principles, and that reflects no credit on Thee. It was an impugning of the Divine character, a blasphemous challenging of God’s ,own excellency. As the sequel shows, the Lord accepted the challenge, and by so doing made fully evident the adversary’s lie, for after he had been allowed to slay his sons and seize his possessions, the Lord gave Job the same commendation as before: “a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil, and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst Me against him” ( Joshua 2:3).
Thus did God glory over the baffled Devil and upbraid him for his failure, for Job was equally loyal to Him in adversity as in prosperity. Still Satan was not satisfied: “all that a man hath will he give for his life... touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse Thee to Thy face” ( Joshua 2:4,5).
And again he was proved a liar, for the patriarch declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” ( Joshua 13:15).
Though the circumstances were different, the same principle was really involved here in Joshua 11: — the Devil’s enmity against and opposition to God. For it was the Lord who had given Canaan unto Abraham and his seed, and He it was who had brought them into it.
Palestine was Israel’s by right of Divine donation. But now the occupancy of their inheritance was hotly challenged. All those kings with their armies were determined to destroy them. The gauntlet was thrown down: let it be put to the issue was the language of their actions. The Lord promptly accepted the challenge, and let it be known unto Israel that “he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye” ( Zechariah 2:8). Blessed figure of speech was that: telling not only of the inherent weakness and tenderness of the Lord’s people, but intimating their nearness and dearness unto Himself. God strongly resents any affront done to them, and will severely punish those who seek to harm them. Therefore did the Lord immediately assure Joshua that there was no reason for him to be dismayed by this imposing force of the enemy: they were but flinging themselves upon “the thick bosses of His bucklers” ( Job 15:26), rushing headlong to their destruction, as would be made to appear on the morrow. So likewise, in the end, will all the works of the Devil be destroyed.
A most important truth is exemplified in all that has been pointed out above, yet one that is little apprehended by God’s people today, namely that Satan’s assault upon them is really an attack upon their Lord — upon them only because of their relationship to Him. That is illustrated again in Acts 9: for when He arrested Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, as he was “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,” He said, “why persecutest thou Me?” — it was the Devil who was impelling Saul, as it was Christ and not merely His disciples against whom he was venting his animosity. And thus it is now. As God suffered Satan to afflict Job so sorely, not because that patriarch had given occasion to be severely chastised, but in order that his integrity might the more plainly appear and the Divine character be vindicated, so He still permits the adversary both to tempt and buffet His people, that their steadfastness (in varying degrees, but always from a total apostasy) may redound to His own glory. As we are told in 1 Peter 1:7, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” — not only, and not principally, theirs, but primarily and pre-eminently God’s.
The practical value of this important truth scarcely requires to be pointed out. Since it be the Lord Himself rather than His redeemed against whom the venom of the serpent is ultimately aimed, how secure are the saints in His hand! Secure, because His own personal honor is involved in their preservation, He has given definite assurance that “This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day” ( John 6:39), that they shall “never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” ( John 10:28), and therefore if the Devil were to bring about the eternal destruction of a single one of them Christ would be eternally disgraced. But such a calamity is utterly impossible, for though Satan be mighty, the Son of God is almighty. Upon that fact, in full persuasion of the everlasting preservation of every soul who has fled to the Lord Jesus for refuge, may each believer rest with implicit confidence. Here, then, is yet another important lesson taught the believer in this invaluable book of Joshua concerning his spiritual warfare, namely that the contest is, ultimately, between Satan and his Savior, and therefore the issue cannot be in the slightest doubt: as surely as Joshua and the children of Israel overcame and vanquished all the Canaanites who came against them, so will Christ and His Church triumph gloriously over the Devil and his angels.
But further. It is the believer’s privilege to realize, especially when fiercely assaulted and sorely pressed by the foe, that the outcome of the fight in which he is engaged rests not with him, but with the Captain of his salvation, and therefore to Him he may turn at all times for succor and for victory. What the Lord said here unto Joshua the Christian should regard as being said unto himself: “Be not afraid because of them.” Those who are now arrayed against the Christian and who seek his destruction shall soon themselves be destroyed. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” ( Romans 16:20), and meanwhile, as the apostle immediately added, “The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. Amen.” But just as that assuring word spoken to Joshua was addressed unto his faith and could be enjoyed only by the exercise of that grace in the interval before its fulfillment, so serenity of mind while menaced by his foes can only be the believer’s as he by faith appropriates that promise unto himself. Then let his triumphant language be, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid” ( Isaiah 12:2). In proportion as he does so will he be warranted in resting on that declaration, Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with His feathers.” ( Psalm 91:3,4).
In our last we considered the Divine response made to the formidable movement inaugurated by Jabin and his fellows. the Lord promptly took up the cudgels on behalf of His menaced people. He assured His servant that he need entertain no fear whatever about the outcome, promising him, “I will deliver them up all slain before Israel” ( Joshua 11:6). In like manner is the Christian to be assured, and therefore it is his holy privilege to enter upon and engage in the good fight of faith resting on the sure pledges of God, confident of a successful issue. “He is faithful that promised” ( Hebrews 10:23). The more we meditate upon the veracity of the Promiser, the more will faith be strengthened. In proportion as we truly realize that we have to do with One who cannot lie, the greater confidence shall we have in His Word. Instead of being so much occupied with the difficulties of the way (which will but engender doubts), we need to look above unto Him who has given us such “exceeding great and precious promises” ( 2 Peter 1:4) to be the stay of our hearts, to cheer and gladden us. Those promises are to be treasured up in our minds, for they are both the food of faith to nourish and strengthen it and the fuel of faith to stoke and energize it, otherwise it will lack that which is necessary for its activity, as a fire will not burn without wood or coals — thus coldness of heart is due mainly to faith being deprived of its fuel!
There will be little or no success in our spiritual warfare unless we make much of the Divine promises, and still more of the Promiser Himself. The foes that have to be encountered are far too powerful to be overcome by any might of ours, and therefore must we look to Him whose soldiers we are. If we do so, no matter how great our weakness or formidable the task assigned, the Lord will not fail us. “Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” ( Hebrews 11:11).
There were strong impediments in the way of her faith, and at first She was staggered by them, but as she regarded the immutability and fidelity of the Promiser her doubts were stilled, faith prevailed, and strength was given.
As Manton well said, “Every Divine promise has annexed to it the challenge, ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’” As in Sara’s case, so with us, very often there is a fight with unbelief before faith is established on the promise. But instead of suffering obstacles to hinder faith, they should be made a help to it — arguing, Here is a grand opportunity for me to prove the sufficiency of my God. He never promises more than He is able to perform. His word never exceeds His power: “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it” ( 1 Thessalonians 5:24).
It should be duly considered that this massing of the Canaanites against Israel occurred not soon after they entered the land, nor did they encounter anything like such an opposing force either at Jericho or Ai. No, rather was this trial met with after they had made considerable progress in taking possession of their heritage. Thus it was too with the father of all them that believe: each new test of Abraham’s faith was more severe than the preceding ones. And so it is in the Christian life. Thus it is the mature and aged warrior to whom this word is most appropriate: “Be not afraid.” Why should Joshua fear? Since God had so wondrously delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt, overthrown Pharaoh and his chariots in the Red Sea, provided for them all through their wilderness journey, miraculously opened the Jordan for them to enter into Canaan, most certainly He was not going to abandon them now and allow them to perish at the hands of Jabin and his armies. No indeed, when God begins a work He never stops when it is but half done, but always completes and perfects it ( Philippians 1:6). So it was with Israel under Joshua; and so it is with every elect vessel’ “whom He justified, them He also glorified” ( Romans 8:30). Much takes place between the one and the other, but though death itself occurs (as has been the case with His people for the last six thousand years), the former guarantees the latter.
Let then the tried and aged pilgrim take comfort from the Lord’s dealings with Israel, and give no place whatever to Satan’s lie that God has tired of him. Like the fiend that he is, the Devil seeks to attack us most fiercely when much oppressed by circumstances or at our weakest physically.
When natural vigor has abated and the increasing weight of years is felt, he will seek to inject the most God-dishonoring doubts into the minds of His people. Reject them with abhorrence, and rest on the Divine assurance, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” ( Hebrews 13:5). He who has cared for His child all through the years most certainly will not forsake him or her in the time of old age. He who has responded to your cries in former days will not turn a deaf ear now that your voice has grown feeble. “He shall deliver thee in six troubles [has he not done so?]: yea, in seven [the final one] there shall no evil touch thee” ( Job 5:19). Past deliverances are sure earnests of future ones. “And even to your old age I am He: and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and wilt deliver you” ( Isaiah 46:4): those are the “I wills” of Him who is the Truth. Rest your whole weight on them.
But resting upon the promises does not mean that the saint may shirk any of his duties, or even relax in the performing of them. Rather do such Divine assurances involve corresponding obligations. That is clear from the two halves of the verses quoted in our opening paragraph: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised)” ( Hebrews 10:23).
That “for” is very forceful, supplying us with a powerful motive unto steadfastness and diligence. Since God be faithful to us, we ought to be faithful unto Him. To hold fast the profession of our faith is a comprehensive expression which includes every aspect of the Christian life, and the knowledge that God will infallibly make good His word unto us is to animate unto fidelity in the carrying out of its engagements. The Divine promises are not only comforting pillows on which to rest our weary heads, but cordials to strengthen, spurs to move us, encouragements for us to press forward along the way, arguments for us to make use of in prayer.
The Divine promises are the food of faith, and faith is for producing good works. That is the practical application which the apostle made of the Divine assurances in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57: Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, un-moveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
So far from annulling the believer’s responsibility or countenancing any slackness in the discharge of the same, spiritual privileges involve additional obligations. But alas, man is such a creature of extremes that even a Christian when he be deeply impressed with one aspect of the Truth is very apt to become so absorbed with it as to lose sight of and leave out of his reckoning the counter-balancing aspect of the Truth. Because God performs everything for us, it does not mean there is nothing for us to do.
If we ascribe the glory unto Him to whom alone it is due we shall freely own to the Lord, “for Thou also hast wrought all our works in us” ( Isaiah 26:12); nevertheless that does not alter the fact He has bidden us “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” ( Philippians 2:12), yet that too is immediately followed with, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” There the two sides of the Truth are placed in juxtaposition, and notice well the order in which they are set before us. First the enforcing of our duty, and then the encouraging motive to inspire us therein. The latter is not added to induce indolence, but in order to encourage effort. We have no scriptural warrant to expect that God will show Himself strong in our behalf unless we make conscience of His precepts and use the means He has appointed. Our bread is Divinely guaranteed ( Isaiah 33:16), nevertheless it must be labored for ( John 6:27).
The relation of Philippians 2:13, to Philippians 2:12, is a double one, being designed both to cheer and to humble us. The child of God is very conscious of his weakness, and knowing that the world, the flesh and the Devil are arrayed against him, and contemplating the tasks set before him — tasks which are spiritual and far above the compass of mere nature — he asks, How can I possibly accomplish them? The answer is, Divine assistance is assured. The believer is not left to himself, but the omnipotent God operates within as well as for him, and therefore is he to go forth in the confidence that Divine grace will be sufficient for him. Help is indeed needed by him, and if he conducts himself aright that help will certainly be given. On the other hand, he is required to work out his own salvation “with fear and trembling,” that is in a spirit of humility and lowliness. But how is that possible unto those who are proud and independent? We are all of us Pharisees by nature — boastful and prone to self-glorying. How then can we be emptied of such a spirit? And again Philippians 2:13, supplies the answer. From this consideration: since it be God who works in me all that is praiseworthy; then I have nothing to boast of. I am constantly to remind myself that it is God who makes me to differ from those of my fellows whom He leaves to themselves. The strongest inducement possible to produce a self-abasing spirit is the realization that apart from Christ we can do nothing ( John 15:5).
Above we have said that there will be little or no success in our spiritual warfare unless we make much of the Divine promises: let us now add that the same is equally true of the Divine precepts. That also is taught us in Joshua 11:6, for immediately after assuring His servant, “Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel,” the Lord added, “thou shalt hough their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” God’s promises are not designed to further slothfulness, but to stimulate to the performance of duty. God does not work in us to promote idleness, but to “will and to do of His good pleasure.” When the farmer sees God working by softening the ground with gentle showers, he is encouraged to plough and plant his fields. When the yachtsman perceives God working by stirring the becalmed air with a breeze, he is encouraged to hoist his sails. So it is spiritually. Grace is given the regenerate for them to use: “stir up the gift of God which is in thee” ( 2 Timothy 1:6). We are to “work out” what God has wrought in us, yet in complete dependence upon Him. We must beware of abusing the truth of Divine operations and take to heart the warning of the lazy servant who hid his talent in the earth.
To be a successful warrior I must be able to say with David (and none obtained more military victories than he!): “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart” ( <19B9111> Psalm 119:111).
We agree with C. Bridges that when “testimony” occurs in the singular number it has reference to the Bible as a whole — the entire revelation of God’s will unto mankind — but when found in the plural it is chiefly the perceptive parts of Scripture which are in view. This is borne out by verse 138: “Thy testimonies that Thou hast commanded,” and “I have kept Thy precepts and Thy testimonies” (168). David had chosen God’s statutes or precepts as his “heritage” to live upon. Not the world did he select for his happiness, but a heritage of holiness and wisdom, one which would not fail in time and one that would endure for ever. He made this choice because he realized their value: that they are like their Author, namely “righteous and very faithful” (138), and because he loved them exceedingly (167). So too did the apostle bear witness: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” ( Romans 7:22) — only then will our obedience be acceptable unto Him. “I have kept Thy precepts and Thy testimonies,” and as Spurgeon said, “If we keep God’s testimonies they will keep us — right in opinion, comfortable in spirit, holy in conversation, hopeful in expectation.”
The Divine testimonies are as necessary and essential unto the believer in his spiritual warfare as are the Divine assurances. It is the fight of faith which we are called to wage, and as God’s promises are its food, so His precepts are its directors. Faith has three great tasks to perform: to trust implicitly in God, to render obedience to His revealed will, and steadfastly to resist all that is opposed thereto. The promises provide encouragement for the first, the precepts light for the second, and the Lord Himself must be looked unto for strength for the third. So it was in Joshua 11:6: the Divine promise there was immediately followed by a precept; Joshua was required to hough the horses of the Canaanites and burn their chariots with fire. Matthew Henry pointed out that this new campaign upon which Joshua was now entering “was a glorious one, no less illustrious than the former in the success of it, though in respect of miracles, it was inferior to it in glory. The wonders God then wrought for them, were to initiate and encourage them to act vigorously themselves. Thus the war carried on by the preaching of the Gospel, against Satan’s kingdom, was at first furthered by miracles; but the warfare by then was sufficiently proved to be of God, and the managers of it are now left to the ordinary assistance of Divine grace in the use of the sword of the Spirit, and must not expect hailstones, or the standing still of the sun.”
The order given to Joshua for the houghing of the horses of the Canaanites and the burning of their chariots involved, of course, the vanquishing of them in battle. Accordingly we ate told, So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them” (verse 7). Though it was the Lord Himself who had accepted the challenge of Jabin and his confederates, and had assured His servant that He would deliver them up all slain before Israel on the morrow, this did not signify that he and his men were to remain passive — mere spectators of God’s working. He was indeed about to act mightily for them, yet at the same time by and through them! This also needs to be made clear and emphasized in certain quarters today: not only where hyper-Calvinism or a species of fatalism holds sway, but also where a certain type of the “victorious life” teaching is misleading souls, for the one is as paralyzing as the other. The Christian is informed that the reason why he so often yields to external temptations or is overcome by indwelling sin is because he is making the great mistake of trying to fight his foes personally; that they will never be conquered until he, “by faith,” turns them over to Christ and counts upon His vanquishing them for him; that the battle is not his but the Lord’s; that He triumphed over Satan and all his hosts at the cross; and that if we yield ourselves completely to Him His victory will be ours without any effort on our part.
There is just sufficient veneer of the Truth to give this line of teaching a plausible appearance, vet there is also more than enough repudiation of Scripture to convince all who are subject to God’s Word of its error.
Seemingly it supplies a blessed solution to the most distressing problem in the Christian life, and at the same time appears to honor Christ, but in fact it repudiates human responsibility, and falsifies the teaching of our Lord.
Faith is not only to rest upon the Divine promises and rely upon what Christ has done for His people; it is also required to bring forth good works, run in the way of His commandments, follow the example He has left us. When one of the leaders of this modern movement declares, “As I trust Christ in surrender there need be no fight against sin, but complete freedom from the power and even the desire of sin,” he not only inculcates what is contrary to the recorded experience of God’s people in all ages, but he takes direct issue with Scripture itself. The Bible speaks of “striving against sin” ( Hebrews 12:4), wrestling against principalities and powers ( Ephesians 6:12), bids the believer “fight the good fight of faith” ( Timothy 6:12), enjoins him to “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ... that he may please Him who has chosen him to be a soldier” ( 2 Timothy 2:3,4), and calls upon him to “put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” ( Ephesians 6:11).
It is obvious that the above references, and others of a similar nature, would be quite useless, meaningless, if the ideal state of Christian living were a merely passive thing, and if it be summed up in the catchword of one of its popular advocates, “Let go, and let God.” Most assuredly the believer cannot gain the victory by his own powers; instead, he is to seek strength from the Lord, and then to use the same actively and strenuously.
To speak of a passive “overcomer” is to employ words without meaning.
To make the believer a mere onlooker of the Lord’s exploits is to reduce him to something less than a moral agent. “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord” must not be so misunderstood and misapplied as to neutralize the exhortation “Let us run with patience [i.e. perseverance] the race that is set before us” ( Hebrews 12:1). “Running,” like “wrestling” and “fighting,” is a figure which expresses the putting forth of vigorous endeavor. True, we are to be “looking unto Jesus” while thus engaged, yet run we must. True also that the Christian is to reckon on the blessed fact that his Savior has triumphed over Satan, and yet that does not alter the fact that he is required to “resist the devil.” True, God has promised to tread Satan under our feet shortly, vet be is not there now, any more than Christ’s enemies have yet been made His footstool ( Hebrews 10:13). The ultimate victory is sure, yet it has to be fought for by each one of us.
Thus it was in Joshua 11. Divine assurance that Jabin and his army would be slain on the morrow had been given, yet that did not release Israel from performing their duty. God had made no announcement that He would destroy the Canaanites by fire from heaven, as He did the cities of the plain ( Genesis 19), or that He would cause the earth to open her mouth and swallow them up as in the case of Korah and his company ( Numbers 16). Instead, He had promised to “deliver them up all slain before Israel” — a word which imported, according to its common usage, being killed in battle. That His servant so understood it is evident, for we are told that he and all the men of war with him “fell upon them.” Joshua did not seek a defensive position and dig trenches for the protection of his men, and then sit down and wait for the Lord to work. No, with full confidence in his Master’s promise, he took the initiative, acted aggressively, and launched an attack upon the foe — boldly, suddenly, unexpectedly. God had said “to morrow I will deliver them up,” and, taking Him at His word, Joshua delayed not. Probably that was the very last thing which the hosts of Jabin were expecting, and they would be thrown into the utmost confusion from the very outset.
THE CHALLENGERS VANQUISHED Our design in these articles has been to supply something more than a bare exposition of the book of Joshua, namely to point out some of the bearings which its contents have upon us today. A true understanding of God’s Word is indeed of first importance, for unless its meaning be rightly apprehended, of what service will it be unto us? Yet it is the use to which we put it, the measure in which we appropriate its principles and precepts to the regulating of our daily walk, that is equally important. “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” ( John 13:17), that is the test.
Thus, to spare no pains in endeavoring to arrive at the meaning of God’s Word, that he may give a sound interpretation of the same, is only a part of the duty resting upon the minister of the Gospel, and especially the teacher of God’s people. Another part of his work, equally necessary and exacting, is for him to make practical application unto his hearers of each passage he takes up, to point out the various lessons it inculcates, to accommodate it unto the present condition and circumstances of those to whom he ministers. Only so will he emulate the example left him by the Divine Teacher of the Church: only so will he pursue the same course that was followed by His apostles: only so will he be of greatest service unto His needy, tried and often sorely perplexed people. It is not the elucidation of mysteries or light upon prophecy that they most need, but that which will comfort, strengthen and stimulate them.
Such a policy as just intimated will indeed slow down the speed of one who undertakes to go systematically through a whole book of Scripture, or even a single chapter thereof. But so far from speed being a virtue, it is. more often a vice, as much in modern life tragically shows. “He that believeth shall not make haste”. ( Isaiah 28:16) holds good of the “opening up” of God’s Word, as it does of everything else. and must be heeded if souls are to be really edified. But though such a method will not make for swiftness, yet by God’s blessing (on much prayerful meditation) it will produce something far more substantial and satisfying than the superficial generalizations which now so widely obtain. both in the pulpit and in the religious press. As the old adage says, “Slow but sure is sure to do well.” Instead of seeing how quickly we could race through the book of Joshua, we have endeavored to ascertain and then point out the practical application of its contents unto ourselves and our readers. Particularly have we dwelt at length upon the many things in it which illustrate the various aspects of the Christian’s spiritual warfare: the snares he must avoid. the rules he must observe, the means he must employ, in order to success therein. We have sought to call attention to the grand incentives and the real encouragements furnished by this book to “fight the good fight of faith,” and to show how strength for the same is to be obtained.
In addition, we have endeavored to remove those “stumbling-blocks” ( Isaiah 57:14) which various types of error lay in the path of the Christian warrior. Let us now add a few words to what was said at the close of our last concerning the misleading teaching of certain sections of what is known as “the victorious life” movement. While on the one hand we heartily concur with their deploring of the carnal and worldly walk of the rank and the of professing Christians, and agree that many of God’s own people are living far below their privileges in Christ; yet on the other hand we neither endorse their language nor believe the remedy they prescribe is the true one. All of their leaders are decidedly Arminianistic, which at once evinces that they are unsafe guides to follow. It is scripturally warrantable to say that some believers are living Christdishonoring lives and acting contrary to God’s revealed will; but that is very far from justifying the oft-made assertion that He desires to do this or that in and for them, but they will not let Him. That would connote a thwarted Redeemer, and obviously a defeated Christ could not be the Leader of any “victorious” followers! Such a “Christ” is very different from Him who is no less than “the mighty God” ( Isaiah 9:6). Verily “the legs of the lame are not equal” ( Proverbs 26:7), and they who are proudest of their consistency are often the most inconsistent in their beliefs and conduct.
To contend for holiness of life is indeed praiseworthy, and to urge God’s people to “possess their possessions” and enjoy now the rich heritage which is theirs in Christ is also a thing most needful; yet zeal requires to be tempered with knowledge, and if a spirit of fanaticism is to be avoided all must be tested by Holy Writ. Satan is never more dangerous than when he appears as an angel of light. To carnal reason it seems that Christ’s acceptance of the Devil’s challenge to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple had been an outstanding act of faith in God to preserve Him from all injury; nevertheless, His reply shows that such had been an act of presumption and contrary to Scripture. Likewise, it may strike us as most honoring to Christ to say that He is ready to do all for us if we surrender wholly to His control; but the fact is that He will no more relieve us of personally contending with our foes than He would repent and believe for us in order to our being saved. Strengthen us He will, if we seek His grace aright; yet that strength will be given for the purpose of equipping us to fight the good fight of faith. As the apostle declared, “I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” ( Colossians 1:29).
Nor is there anything in that statement the least derogatory to His glory; but very much to the contrary.
Resuming our remarks upon Joshua 11. In view of the great preponderance of Jabin’s forces over Israel’s, and the weighty advantage he had in being possessed of so many horses and chariots, while they were on foot, there can be no doubt that he was not only fully confident of victory, but that he considered, the initiative lay entirely in his own hands, and that there was not the least likelihood of their launching any attack upon him. Yet that was the very thing that happened. “So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them” (verse 7).
Therein we behold the confidence, the obedience, the daring and the promptness of faith. Joshua’s confidence lay not in his own military skill, nor in the valor of his men, but in the sure promise of the One whom he served. The assault which he now made upon the Canaanites was not dictated by caprice, feelings, or carnal reason, but was in compliance with the orders which he had received from the Lord. His falling suddenly upon Jabin and his army was not due to any impatience or anxiety for the issue to be immediately determined, but was the result of laying hold of the Lord’s “to morrow” in the preceding verse. His action was not a venturesome or foolhardy one, but a daring to rely upon his God when faced with what to sight appeared a hopeless situation — as the Hebrews, and later Daniel, feared not to defy the edicts of the king of Babylon. “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephoth- maim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining” (verse 8).
Thus did Israel’s God make good His word through Moses ( Deuteronomy 20:1), fulfill the promise made to His servant, and vindicate the faith of Joshua. Thus was provided yet another proof of how firm is the foundation on which has rested the faith of God’s people in all generations. And thus too did He demonstrate His acceptance of the impious challenge of Jabin and his fellows, and make it clear that “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord” ( Proverbs 21:30) — another verse, by the way, whose language is not to be taken absolutely and where an interpreter is needed to bring out its sense. As a matter of fact all the wisdom of Satan and all the policy of the unregenerate is directed, immediately and actively, against the Lord; yet all in vain. He that sitteth in the heavens laughs at the most determined and concerted projects of men against Himself and His Anointed, and fulfils His pleasure despite them ( Psalm 2:1-6). As well attempt to stop the sun from shining or the ocean from moving as seek to nullify the decrees of the Almighty. All who make war with the Lamb shall most certainly be vanquished by Him ( Revelation 17:14).
The total failure of Jabin’s long-planned project demonstrated clearly that there is “no counsel against the Lord” which has the remotest possibility of succeeding. The best-contrived policy against Him comes to foolishness. “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness [not “ignorance “!]: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong” ( Job 5:13). Pharaoh’s counsel to depress the Hebrews issued in their being increased ( Exodus 1:8-12). Ahithophel’s counsel was befooled at the very time when “it was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God” ( 2 Samuel 16:23; 17:7, 14, 23, with 15:31). Ahab’s attempt to falsify God’s word by seeking to ward off the threatened stroke against his life ( 1 Kings 22:30-34), Athaliah’s deep-laid plot to exterminate the family of David and thereby frustrate the Divine promise ( 2 Kings 11:1), the blatant boast and wicked design of Sennacherib against Judah ( 2 Chronicles 32:21; Isaiah 30:31), the strong and repeated efforts of the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin to prevent their building of the temple ( Ezra 4:6), and later the craft of Sanballat to oppose the erecting of the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah), the determination of Haman to slay all the Jews (Esther 3), Herod’s seeking to kill the infant Savior ( Matthew 2) — all came to naught, as inevitably they should do when opposing the decrees of heaven. “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel” (verse 8), thereby fulfilling the promise which He had given unto Joshua the day previously (verse 6). Blessed is it to learn from this, and many other passages, that the wicked, equally with the righteous, are in the hands of Him who made them and are entirely at His sovereign disposal. One of the chief designs of Scripture is to reveal unto us the several relations which God sustains unto His creatures.
He is not only their Creator, but their Lawgiver and Ruler, their King and Governor, and, ultimately, their Judge, to whom they must yet render an account of their deeds. Since the reprobate as well as the elect are represented as clay in the hands of the Divine Potter determining their eternal destiny ( Romans 9:21-24), then certainly He has full control of them and their actions while they be in a time state. This is a very real and substantial part of the believer’s consolation, that his God “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” ( Daniel 4:35), and therefore that neither Satan nor any of his children can make the least move against one of the Lord’s people without His express permission and the removing of His providential hindrances. “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel.” What a commentary was that upon “The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to naught: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect” ( Psalm 33:10)!
Not only are the wicked the subjects of God’s government, but their every action is controlled by Him and made subservient to His eternal purpose, yet without His having any part in their wickedness. Was it not so in the cases of Pharaoh and Judas? And is it possible to select more extreme ones? If then the greatest of all rebels fulfilled the purpose of the Almighty (though quite unwittingly so far as they were concerned), then think it not strange that it is so with all lesser rebels. Nimrod and his fellows thought to erect a tower whose top should reach unto heaven, but God frustrated them. Abimelech king of Gerah sent and took Sarah unto himself, but God suffered him not to touch her ( Genesis 20:6). Balaam loved the wages of unrighteousness and hired himself out unto Balak to go and curse Israel, but the Lord so interposed that that prophet had to confess to his chagrin, “Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it” ( Numbers 23:20). “Surely the wrath of man shall [be made to] praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain” ( Psalm 76:10). “The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all” ( <19A319> Psalm 103:19) — over the evil and the good, over the demons and those they indwell as truly as over His Church. God rules in the decisions of the senate, the tumults of the people, the fury of battle, as really as in the ragings and tides of the sea. The plotting of kings, the ambitions of aggressors, the avarice of conquerors, are fully controlled by the Most High. He presides in their counsels, determines their decisions, decides which nations they shall attack, bending their minds to comply with His eternal decrees.
Unmistakably, repeatedly, uniformly, is that the teaching of Holy Writ.
Note well what the Lord said of that heathen monarch who was so filled with the lust of conquest: “O Assyrian, the rod of Mine anger, and the staff in their hand is Mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of My wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so... but it is in his heart to destroy and cut off nations not a few” ( Isaiah 10:5,7).
The Assyrian had other designs of a more ambitious scope, but God changed the direction of his thoughts, and caused him to be His instrument of retribution in inflicting judgment upon a people who had sorely provoked Him. God employed him, unknown to himself, as “the rod of His anger: thus he was in God’s hand and his actions determined by Him. “And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel... and they smote them, until they left them none remaining (verse 8).
See here the utter futility and madness of fighting against the Almighty!
When He “delivered them up” unto their justly deserved death, what could they do? Nothing, they were helpless, unable to escape the due reward of their iniquity. “Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished; but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered” ( Proverbs 11:21).
Thus it was with Jabin and his hosts; their confederacy in evil came to naught. Their number, strength and unanimity availed them nothing now that God’s hour of vengeance had arrived. Therein we have a solemn anticipation and adumbration of the judgment awaiting the world of the ungodly. The Lord has solemnly declared that He “repayeth them that hate Him to their face, to destroy them” ( Deuteronomy 7:10); and again, “Thine hand shall find out all Thine enemies: Thy right hand shall find out those that hate Thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of Thine anger: the Lord shall swallow them up in His wrath, and the fire shall devour them” ( Psalm 21:8,9).
Out of Christ there is no protection from God’s justice. When He appears to judge the world, the stoutest heart will melt in terror and the most obdurate will cry to the rocks. “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” ( Revelation 6:16,17). “And Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him: he houghed their horses, and burned their chariots with fire” (verse 9).
In the flush and excitement of victory Israel’s leader failed not to comply with the orders he had received from his Master, and it is blessed to see how the Holy Spirit has taken notice of and recorded the same, thereby showing us the value which God places upon obedience. Not only so, but the chronicling of these details here is for our spiritual instruction, intimating as they do once more that further victories are not to be expected by us unless we remain in complete subjection to the Divine will.
The continued blessing of God on our efforts to overcome our foes is dependent upon the maintenance of lowliness and submission unto Him, for if pride or self-will is allowed, then the Holy Spirit is grieved. Humility ever expresses itself in obedience to God. What is recorded here in verse explains what follows to the end of the chapter, where we are shown how Joshua’s progress remained unretarded. In what particular way this “houghing” was done we are not informed, so we cannot be sure whether the horses were only rendered powerless for warfare or completely destroyed. In view of burning the chariots, it seems more likely that they would be killed, so as to prevent other Canaanites from using them; the more so since they would be of no value to Israel. “And Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him: he houghed their horses, and burned their chariots with fire.” What proof was this that “There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. An horse is a vain thing for safety” ( Psalm 31:16,17)!
As God can save those who are without armies, so those with them are helpless if He be against them — as was clearly demonstrated at the Red Sea. It is a striking fact that the most glorious days of military victory for Israel were when the veto of Deuteronomy 17:16, was strictly regarded by them. In addition to their remarkable exploits in the time of Joshua, we may recall their victories over Sihon and Og ( Numbers 21:23-26, 33- 35), their overcoming of Sisera and his nine hundred chariots of iron ( Judges 4:3-16), and David’s victory over the king of Zobah, with his thousand chariots ( 2 Samuel 8). On the other hand, it is equally noticeable that Israel’s declension dates from their transgression of Deuteronomy 17:16 ( 1 Kings 4:26; 10:26), and that defeat came from the very quarter in which they foolishly placed their confidence ( Chronicles 12:2, 9 and compare Isaiah 31:1): all of which goes to show “The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety [or “victory”] is of the Lord” ( Proverbs 21:31), It may also be pointed out that later, when Israel renounced this vain confidence, God healed their backsliding ( Hosea 14:3,4), GOD AND WAR The title of this article may possibly shock some of our readers, thinking that “Satan and War” would be a more appropriate and accurate one.
There are an increasing number today among churchgoers who repudiate the idea that God has anything to do, designedly and directly, with such calamities as tidal waves, earthquakes, or wars. Since there are such things, these people attribute them to and blame them upon the Devil.
Their beliefs differ little from the religious conceptions of the ancient Persians and modern Parsees, for Zoroastrianism teaches that there are two Gods presiding over this sphere, a good and an evil one; that all blessings are to be ascribed unto the former and all our ills unto the latter. And just as that ancient system of philosophy and religion contains no definite statement as to which of the opposing deities will ultimately triumph, so these modern dualists have so little confidence in the true and living God, and are so determined to dissociate Him from the affairs of this scene, that they talk (and even write) about the likelihood of this earth being blown to smithereens by some devilish kind of bomb, instead of this world being (when it has served His purpose) destroyed by its Creator with fire (Psalm 1,3), as He did the antediluvian world by water.
It needs to be constantly pressed upon this skeptical generation that the One who made this world is now governing it; and that not merely in a vague and general way, but most definitely and specifically. The Lord God presides over all its affairs, regulates all its events, directs all its inhabitants.
If He did not, if there be some creatures beyond His control some happenings outside His jurisdiction, then there would be no guarantee that everything which transpires on earth (as well as in heaven) shall redound to His glory, and that all things are working together for good to them that love Him. Instead, all confidence in the future would be at an end, all peace of heart and tranquility of mind an empty dream. But Scripture is far too plain on this matter to be misunderstood: His kingdom ruleth over all ( <19A319> Psalm 103:19), who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” ( Ephesians 1:11), “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” ( Romans 11:36).
So far from Satan being able to thwart Him, he could not lay a finger upon Job or any of his possessions until the Lord gave him permission to do so; and the demons could not enter the herd of swine without Christ’s consent ( Mark 5:12,13). Nor can the Devil gain the slightest advantage over a saint without his own allowance, and if he resists him steadfastly in the faith, he is obliged to flee from him ( James 4:7).
Since “all things” are of God, then wars must not be excluded. So truly is this the case that His Word declares, “The Lord is a man of war” ( Exodus 15:3): thus Deity hesitates not to assume unto Himself a militant title. And again He declares, “The Lord mighty in battle” ( Psalm 24:8), which is illustrated and demonstrated again and again in the history of Israel, when He showed Himself strong in their behalf and slew their foes. “The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land” ( Isaiah 13:4,5).
It may be objected that these are Old Testament references, and that the spirit of the New Testament denounces all war as now being unlawful. But the New Testament is far from bearing that out; its teaching thereon is in full accord with the Old. Thus, when the soldiers came to Christ’s forerunner for instruction, asking, “What shall we do?” he did not say, Fight no more, abandon your calling, but gave them directions how to conduct themselves. When the centurion came to the Savior and drew an argument from his military calling, our Lord did not condemn his profession or rebuke him for holding such an office; instead, He highly commended his faith ( Luke 7:8,9).
When foretelling the destruction of Jerusalem, Christ declared that God would send forth His armies ( Matthew 22:7), so that the Roman legions were but instruments in His hands, directed by Him to effect His judgment.
When examined by Pilate, our Lord said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is My kingdom not from hence” ( John 18:36).
Those words clearly imply that, though carnal means were then improper for advancing His spiritual kingdom, yet had not His state of humiliation precluded His assumption of the royal scepter His followers might, lawfully have fought to defend His title. Moreover, His qualifying “now suggests that such a time would come, as Revelation 19:11, plainly confirms.
When the ten kings determine to make the mother of harlots desolate and burn her with fire, we are told, “For God hath put it in their hearts to fulfill His will” ( Revelation 17:16,17). How entirely different is the God of Holy Writ from the fictitious one of the sentimental dreamers of this effeminate age!
In our previous comments upon Israel’s fighting in Canaan, our principal emphasis has been upon the application thereof unto the spiritual warfare in which the Christian is called upon to engage, but our articles would lack completeness if we failed to devote one unto the literal side of things.
Much of human history consists of a chronicling of wars, and it is a matter of no little concern and importance that we should turn the light of Scripture thereon and ascertain God’s relation thereto. Is He but a fardistant Spectator thereof, having no immediate connection with the horrible carnage of the battlefield, or is His agency directly involved in the same? To speculate upon such a matter is not only useless, but impious.
War is ever a frightful calamity, the more so if it be a civil one, when one part of the populace is madly fighting against another; or when many nations become involved or embroiled. At such a time the suffering and anguish experienced rudely shake the belief of many in an overruling providence; and even God’s own people find it difficult to stay their minds on the Ruler of the universe and trust in His goodness and wisdom, unless they be firmly rooted in the Truth.
Lions and tigers kill their prey in order to appease their hunger, but men destroy their fellows only to gratify their insatiable lusts of ambition and avarice. During the course of the centuries wild animals have killed thousands of mankind, but within the last few years literally millions have been destroyed by the restless wickedness of those who cared not what immeasurable suffering would result from the meeting of their greedy desires. We cannot sufficiently deplore the depravity of human nature which has made men beasts of prey, or rather devils to one another, seeking whom they may devour. The events of this enlightened century only too plainly confirm the teaching of Scripture on the thorough corruption of fallen human nature, that in their unregenerate condition men are “hateful, and hating one another” ( Titus 3:3). But let us not condemn the ferocity and wickedness of our fellows in any self-righteous spirit, but in the humbling realization that we too are clay of the same lump, and that if a spirit of benevolence now governs us, it is naught but sovereign grace which makes us to differ. But while we contemplate with grief, shame and horror the vile works of men of the same vicious natures as our own, we must by no means overlook and ignore the place which Divine providence has in all those occurrences in which they are the actors· God is supreme, and all inferior agents are under His government, held by Him in such effectual control that they can do nothing without Him. In the most tremendous evils which they inflict, they are the ministers of His vengeance. Even when whole nations be destroyed, by whatsoever means, the hand of God is in that work of judgment. We briefly alluded unto this in our last, but deemed it necessary to supplement what was there pointed out. “I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians’ and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit [courage] of Egypt shall fail in the midst thereof; and I will destroy the counsel thereof... and the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall reign over them, saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts” ( Isaiah 19:2-4) — words which ought to cause not a few people to revise their ideas on this subject. When cities are reduced to rubble, when civil war afflicts a country, when kingdoms are destroyed, the agency of God is to be acknowledged therein.
The worst tyrants, when inflicting the greatest outrages, are the instruments of God, accomplishing His will. In Jeremiah 25:9, we find Jehovah referring to Nebuchadnezzar as “My servant” — just as He spoke of “My servant Moses” ( Numbers 12:7) and “David My servant” ( Psalm 89:3). The king of Babylon was just as truly an instrument in effecting the Divine purpose as they were: they in delivering and building up, he in punishing and destroying. “Lo, I will bring a nation upon you from far, O house of Israel, saith the Lord... and they shall eat up thy harvest, and thy bread, which thy sons and thy daughters should eat: they shall eat up thy flocks and thine herds:... they shall impoverish thy fenced cities, wherein thou trustedst, with the sword” ( Jeremiah 5:15,17).
God brings judgment upon a nation as surely as He gives blessing: uproots as truly as He plants. “Lo, I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land to possess the dwellingplaces that are not theirs: they are terrible and dreadful” ( Habakkuk 1:6,7).
How clearly do those words show that heathen nations are under God’s control and used by Him when it serves His purpose. The Babylonians were employed by the Ruler of this world for the chastisement of His people and commissioned by Him to carry the Jews into captivity, yet in so doing they incurred great guilt and were made to reap as they had sown.
Those things may seem utterly inconsistent unto carnal reason, yet they are not so in reality, for Nebuchadnezzar acted with no thought of fulfilling the Divine decrees, but rather to satisfy his own rapacity, and therefore was his kingdom providentially destroyed by Him with an unexampled destruction.
Others were sent by God to execute His vengeance on Babylon, and though they in turn were incited by their own passions, nevertheless He it was who called forth their hosts and gave them the victory. “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces, and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children” ( Isaiah 13:17,18).
How awful does Providence appear here! Even when savage idolators violate every dictate of humanity, they are the executors of the judgments of the Almighty. While their conduct is most horribly guilty, in the Divine sovereignty it fulfils God’s will. “The Lord of hosts hath purposed it, to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth.... He shook the kingdoms: the Lord hath given a commandment against the merchant city, to destroy the strong holds thereof” ( Isaiah 23:9-11).
The demolition of Tyre by the Chaldeans was not only the fulfillment of prophecy, but was accomplished by Divine agency. God did it, yet man did it. In unconsciously doing the work of the Lord, men act quite freely, and therefore are justly accountable for doing what it was eternally predestined they should do. Philosophy cannot plumb such a depth by its own line, but Scripture clears up the mystery. Of Cyrus God declared, “Thou art My battle axe and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms” ( Jeremiah 51:20).
What is there said of that mighty conqueror is equally true of all conquerors that ever lived, or shall live, on this earth. Conquerors regard themselves almost as gods, but the axes and saws with which men cut and cleave wood might with far better reason exalt themselves to the rank of human creatures. None of them can. do anything but what God’s counsel determined before to be done by their hands, and therefore it is our bounden duty to give God the glory for all the judgments which are done by them, and to adore His awful providence in all the miseries they inflict upon guilty kingdoms.
It is in the light of all that has been said above that the conquest of Canaan by Israel is to be viewed. Joshua 10:30,42, makes it quite clear that the “sword” of Joshua was the sword of the Lord — compare “The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” ( Judges 7:20). Equally so, it is in the light of various passages found in the Pentateuch that we must consider the severity of God’s dealings with those whom His servant was commissioned to slay. The original inhabitants of Canaan were flagitious offenders, not only in being gross idolators, but in trampling underfoot the laws of morality and of humanity. If the reader turns to Leviticus 18:3,27,28, and then ponders what is recorded between verses 3 and 27, he will perceive the horrible depravity which the Amorites exhibited, for in those verses a black catalogue is supplied of the vile “abominations” of which they were guilty. Those heathen tribes were like a cankerous sore in the body politic, contaminating the surrounding nations, and therefore it was an act of mercy unto the latter, as well as a just punishment upon the former, that God ordered Joshua to destroy them root and branch. The Lord had borne long with them, but now that the iniquity of the Amorites had come to the full ( Genesis 15:16) naught but summary judgment suited their case.
Not only is no apology required for the Lord in connection with His solemn works of judgment, but He is to be owned and magnified therein. “O Lord, Thou art my God; I will exalt Thee, I will praise Thy name; for Thou hast done wonderful things; Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. For Thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defensed city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built. Therefore shall the strong people glorify Thee” ( Isaiah 25:1,2) — as Israel did when Pharaoh and his hosts were overthrown by the waters of the Red Sea, and as the inhabitants of heaven shall exclaim “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are His judgments, for He hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of His servants at her hand” ( Revelation 19:1,2).
God is glorious in His works of providence as well as in His works of creation. As He made all things “good” at the creation of the world, so He doeth all things “well” in His government of it. He is to be revered and adored even of those works which He performs by the hand of His creatures. He is glorious in what He does by and through wicked men as well as by His saints: glorious in His acts of vengeance as well as in His acts of grace.
But if the balance of truth is to be preserved on this subject, clue place must be given and full regard had to another class of passages, which show that when God deals in judgment — whether it be with individuals or nations — He does so because man’s sinfulness calls for it, and not because He delights therein. This is clear from Ezekiel 14, where, after announcing the “four sore judgments” which he would send upon Jerusalem, the Lord God declared, “And ye shall know that I have not done this without cause” (verses 21-23), for as Jeremiah 22:8,9, informs us, “And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbor, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this great city? Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshipped other gods and served them.”
How plain is the testimony of Lamentations in. 33, “For He doth not afflict willingly [from His heart] nor grieve the children of men.” Equally so is Ezekiel 33:11, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”
God approves of righteousness wherever it be found, and rewards the same with temporal blessings; but He ever disapproves of sin, and sooner or later visits His anger upon it ( Proverbs 14:34). Yet even when the dark clouds of His judgment are hanging over a kingdom or an evil system, calamity may be averted by national humiliation before God and reformation of conduct ( Exodus 9:27-29); Luke 19:41-44; Revelation 2:21,22). How much to the point are those words of the Lord in Jeremiah 18:8: “If that nation, against whom I have pronounced [judgment], turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them” — as was most definitely exemplified in the case of Nineveh. That verse has, of course, no reference to the alteration of His eternal decree, but instead enumerates one of the principles by which God governs this world, namely that He deals with nations as with individuals — according to their conduct, making them to reap as they have sown, for His judgment is ever tempered by His mercy ( Judges 3:8-10).
Now each of the two sides of our subject pointed out above was illustrated in Joshua 11: On the one hand we are told, “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that He might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses” (verse 20) — because they had filled up the measure of their iniquities and were ripe for judgment (compare Matthew 23:32; 1 Thessalonians 2:16; Revelation 14:7,18). On the other hand we read that “But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only” (verse 13), by which is meant those who remained passive and fought not against Israel. So that here too in wrath God remembered mercy. That is one of several passages which show that Israel did not massacre unresisting Canaanites (cf. Deuteronomy 20:10,11) — Joshua 24:11, shows that those in Jericho assumed a hostile attitude, and therefore we may conclude that those in Ai did so too.
SUMMARY Before turning to the next section of our book (chapters 13–18), which treats of the apportioning of the land unto the tribes of Israel and their actual entrance into their inheritance, one more article is called for on chapter 11: with a few supplementary remarks upon the twelfth, where we have a breviate of Israel’s conquests. A report is made of the protracted fighting which the complete subjugation of the Canaanites entailed, and this is followed by a list of the thirty-one kings who were vanquished by Joshua. There are a number of details in the former chapter which, despite the five articles we have already written thereon, have not yet been noticed, and which are much too important for us to pass over, for they are details which adumbrate and illustrate various aspects of that good fight which Christians are called upon to wage. They concern things which, if success is to crown our efforts, contain valuable lessons that we do well to take to heart. Since they be included in the “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” ( Romans 15:4), we cannot afford to ignore them.
When our Lord had miraculously fed the multitude with the five barley loaves and two small fishes, we are told that He bade His disciples to “gather up the fragments... that nothing be lost” ( John 6:12) — a word that needs to be pressed much upon God’s people today, for some of them are following the evil example of this wasteful and wanton generation by being guilty of throwing away much that could well be used or reused. It is in the spirit and according to the general principle contained in that precept of Christ’s that we turn again to Joshua 11 for though we have, again and again, feasted from its contents in our more or less general survey of them, yet quite a few scattered “fragments” therein claim our attention, and these we shall now endeavor to “gather up” into this present article.
Though we lack the ability to do as the apostles did and “fill twelve baskets” with the same, yet we trust that by Divine assistance we shall be able to provide sufficient to meet the needs of some hungry souls. The Lord graciously grant it. “And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord commanded” ( Joshua 11:12).
Most express orders had been given to him by his predecessor to do these very things ( Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:16, 17); he was to show no mercy and spare none, for they were drinking in iniquity like water is by the parched. And Moses, in turn, had received these instructions from the Lord Himself. Thus, in the slaughtering of the idolatrous and immoral Amorites, Joshua and his men were not actuated by a spirit of bloodthirstiness or malice, but instead were having regard to the Divine precepts. The practical application of this detail unto ourselves should be obvious. Some of God’s statutes enjoin that which is painful unto flesh and blood ( Matthew 16:24; Philippians 3:10), yea, quite contrary to our fallen natures ( Matthew 5:29,30), yet we must not pick and choose only those which are agreeable to us, but conform to the most trying and disagreeable of them; and even though it involves antagonizing those nearest and dearest to us ( Matthew 10:34,35; Luke 14:26), we must, like David, “have respect to all God’s commandments” ( <19B906> Psalm 119:6). “As the Lord commanded Moses His servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua: he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses” ( Joshua 11:15).
That is to be regarded first as a general statement, summarizing his obedience unto such enactments as Exodus 23:24; 34:11-13; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 12:3, in which he was bidden to overthrow their idols and quite break down their images, to destroy their altars and cut down their groves, to destroy all their pictures and pluck down all their high places, to break down their pillars and burn their groves with fire; in short, so thoroughly to make an end of all the monuments of their religion that the very names of their false gods should be “destroyed out of that place.” Thus Joshua was not free to follow his own caprice, nor left to the exercise of his own judgment, but was required to carry out the detailed orders which he had received from his Master. How conscientiously and thoroughly he did so appears from this inspired record of the Holy Spirit: “he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded.” “Would we approve ourselves upright, then we must leave nothing undone which the Lord hath commanded: for though omissions are not so scandalous, either in the world or in the Church, as commissions, they are as certainly acts of disobedience and effects of a will unsubjected to the Divine authority” (Thomas Scott).
As our Lord told the Pharisees, who were very punctilious in paying tithe of mint and anise, yet omitted the weightier matters of the Law — judgment, mercy, and faith — “these ought ye to have done and not to leave the other undone” ( Matthew 23:23).
Sincere obedience is impartial. He who from a right principle obeys any of God’s commandments will have respect unto all of them. Here is one of the radical differences between gracious souls and empty professors: the latter act for themselves and not for God, and will do no more than what they consider promotes their own interests or enhances their reputation before their fellows and, like the Pharisees, usually lay stress on the “least” commandments, especially those things which distinguish them from other denominations, and neglect those which relate to moral duties attending to such externals as the “washing” of their hands, yet making no serious attempt to cleanse their hearts.
What a searching word is this for both writer and reader to measure himself by: “he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded”!
Therein he conformed to that fundamental injunction, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” ( Deuteronomy 12:32).
For men to add anything to the precepts of God, as binding upon the conscience or as being essential to personal piety, is an affront upon His wisdom, for it is tantamount to charging Him with an oversight. Equally so, to diminish aught from the Divine commandments, to ignore or render any of them void, is to despise God’s authority and goodness. If we be wise, even a regard to our own interests will cause us to render unqualified obedience, for God has enjoined nothing but what is for our good, and therefore none of His commandments can be neglected but to our injury and loss. What a solemn word too is this to the preacher! Oh, that he may be able to look his congregation in the face and say truthfully at the close of a pastorate, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you” ( Acts 20:20). “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings” ( Joshua 11:18).
Though the account of his conquest of Canaan be a very brief one and his numerous victories are packed into a small compass, yet it is not to be thought that they were all obtained within a few days (or even weeks) as was the case at Jericho and in the campaign described in chapter 10 but rather occupied a considerable period. Yet, after all, the expression “a long time” is a relative one, for the swiftness or slowness of time’s passing is not always to be gauged by the clock. When its span is filled with stress and strain, its flight seems much slower — as it would to the mothers and wives more than to the fighting men of Israel themselves — hence in the Hebrew it reads “many days.” But, as a matter of fact, that span of time comprised only seven years, as may be seen by a comparison of Joshua 14:1-10, with Deuteronomy 2:14, for in the former we learn that Caleb was only eighty-five when Canaan was conquered and but forty when sent forth by Moses to spy out the land; while the latter informs us that thirtyeight of those years had been spent in the wilderness before Israel crossed the Jordan. Thus the whole of Canaan was subdued and occupied by Israel within the space of seven years.
Those words, “And Joshua made war a long time with all those kings,” tell us of his constancy, and the stability of those who served under him. They did not take things easy after Jericho was captured, nor relax their efforts when Ai fell before them, but continued steadfast until they had completed the task assigned them. What a noble example for the Christian to follow in the prosecution of his spiritual warfare! Let him not be appalled by the obstacles confronting him, deterred by the number of enemies to be overcome, nor disheartened by his failures along the way. Patience and fortitude must be earnestly sought from above. Though the fight of faith lasts “a long time,” for it is to be without any intermission while we are left in this scene, yet “Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” ( Galatians 6:9).
It is just because we are so prone to flag in our efforts during the performance of duty that this exhortation is addressed unto us and repeated in 2 Thessalonians 3:13! Then let us watch and guard against this evil tendency and persevere unto the end. “And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities” (verse 21).
Apparently a special campaign was made against them, and particular notice is here made of the same. Nor is the reason for this far to seek. It will be remembered that when Moses sent forth the twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan and upon their return ten of them threw cold water upon the prospect of Israel’s occupying it, they emphasized the formidable strength of its walled cities and made mention of the Anakims as being of “great stature,” the descendants of the giants, being by comparison “as grasshoppers” in their own sight ( Numbers 13:28-33). But mighty as those men were, and taking refuge as they now did in their fastnesses, Joshua and his men — notwithstanding the difficulty of the mountain passes and attacking these giants in their caves — hunted them out and completely routed the very ones who had originally inspired their unbelieving fathers with such terror. “Even that opposition, which seemed invincible, was got over.
Never let the sons of Anak be a terror to the Israel of God, for even their day will come to fall. Giants are dwarfs to Omnipotence; yet this struggle with the Anakims was reserved for the latter end of the war, when the Israelites were become more expert in the arts of war and had had more experience of the power and goodness of God. God sometimes reserves the sharpest trials of His people, by affliction and temptation, for the latter end of their days. Therefore, ‘let not him that girds on his harness boast as he that puts it off.’
Death, that tremendous son of Anak, is the last enemy to be encountered, but it is to be destroyed ( 1 Corinthians 15:26).
Thanks be to God who will give us the victory” (Matthew Henry).
The words “Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities” are not to be understood absolutely, as the later Scriptures show, for both of the books of Samuel make it clear that the race of these giants had not been completely exterminated, that some of their number succeeded in escaping and either concealed their presence from Israel or took refuge in the surrounding countries. This is more than hinted at in the verse that follows. “There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained” (verse 22).
This was one of the passages used by J.J. Blunt as an illustration of his striking book, Undesigned Coincidences. He pointed out that 1 Samuel 17:4, informs us that the Philistine champion whom David vanquished was “Goliath, of Gath,” whose height was six cubits and a span — ten feet — and then bids the reader mark the value of that description, which though quite casual serves to authenticate its historicity. Next, he reminds us of the testimony of Moses in Numbers 13:32,33, where we are told that certain of the original inhabitants of Canaan were “men of great stature... giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants.” Those details are to be carefully borne in mind in connection with Joshua’s final feat of arms, when, as we have seen, he “cut off the Anakims from the mountains,” and none of them were left in the land of Israel “only [observe the exception] in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod.” Thus, when we find in the book of Samuel that Gath is most incidentally named as the country of Goliath, that fact squares most unmistakably with the two other independent facts chronicled by two other authors, Moses and Joshua: the one that the Anakims were of gigantic size, the other that some of that almost exterminated race, who survived the sword of Joshua, actually continued to dwell at Gath! Thus in the mouths of those three witnesses is the Word established, concurring as they do in a manner the most artless and satisfactory, in confirming one particular at least in that remarkable exploit of Israel’s shepherd boy. Since this one particular, and that like a hinge upon which the whole incident moves, is discovered to be a matter of fact beyond all question, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, we have good reason to regard the other particulars of the same history to be authentic too. But there are also many providential circumstances involved in it which argue the invisible Hand by which David slew his adversary. His being on hand to hear and accept the haughty challenge, his bag with five small stones opposed to the helmet of brass and the coat of brazen mail and the spear like a weaver’s beam, the first sling of a pebble, the panic of the whole host of the Philistines and their overthrow, combine to show that it was no ordinary event, and that “the Lord sayeth not with sword and spear,” but that the battle is the Lord’s, and that He gave it into Israel’s hand ( Samuel 17:47). “So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war” ( Joshua 11:23).
It is clear from Joshua 13 and the book of Judges that those words are to be regarded as a general statement, probably meaning “the far greater and better part, all before described; all that he went against — he failed not in any of his attempts; no place stood out against him that he besieged or summoned; all yielded to him” (John Gill).
Thus did God make good His promises unto the patriarchs ( Deuteronomy 1:8), to Moses ( Deuteronomy 3:18), and to Joshua ( Joshua 1:6). And now, for a season, the land rested from war”’ those Canaanites who had escaped, fearing to attack and remaining quiet; the surrounding nations invading them not. The spiritual application of this unto ourselves is both apparent and blessed. However unpleasant and irksome the spiritual warfare of the Christian may be, his patience in tribulation should ever be encouraged by the joyful expectation of hope ( Romans 12:12), for ere long perfect rest above shall be his portion, and that not for a season, but for ever.
The twelfth chapter forms a fitting conclusion to the military campaigns of Joshua, containing as it does a summary of his numerous victories and a list of the thirty-one kings which were smitten by him. A short account is there given of the conquests made by Israel both in the times of Moses and of Joshua. The land which the Lord gave unto Israel consisted of two parts, for though it was but a single country, yet its terrain was divided by the Jordan. Thus the conquest of Canaan was a single enterprise, though it was actually accomplished in two distinct stages. That portion on the eastward side of Jordan was subdued by Moses, and given to the two and a half tribes, but the much larger half lay on the western side, and was subjugated by Joshua and allotted unto the nine and a half tribes. Typically, that probably has a threefold significance or application.
Second , dispensationally, in connection with the Church and its members: most probably a much greater number of them being sinners taken out from the Gentiles than those who had formerly been from the Jews.
Third , spiritually, in connection with the believer’s salvation: a portion of his inheritance is entered into and enjoyed by him before the Jordan is crossed, but the principal part of it lies on the farther side of death. But while looking for the mystical meaning of this, let us not overlook the practical lesson. “Them did Moses the servant of the Lord and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the Lord gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh. And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west... which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions” ( Joshua 12:6,7).
The linking together of those two things is instructive. “The enjoyment of present blessings should revive the grateful remembrance of former mercies, and the benefit derived from the labors of the living servants of the Lord should remind us to respect the memories of those who have hitherto served Him in their generation. The national covenant mediated by Moses engaged many temporal advantages to Israel” (T. Scott). “And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west... all the kings thirty and one” ( Joshua 12:7,24).
It may be thought strange that there should have been so many kings in such a small country. In reality, it supplies evidence of the accuracy and veracity of this historical record, for it is in perfect accord with the ancient practice followed in various countries, namely that many of their principal cities had their own separate kings. Historians inform us that when Julius Caesar landed in Britain he found four kings in the single county of Kent — then how many more would there be in the whole island? How blessedly did Joshua’s conquest of all those kings illustrate the truth that the more entirely our hearts be fixed upon the Lord our strength ( Joshua 11:6,7), the more certainly will our foes — however powerful or numerous — be subdued before us! According to its gematria (the use of letters instead of figures — for our modern numerals were unknown to the ancients), thirtyone equals EL — the name of God. If then He be for us, who can be against us?