Divers kings overcome at the waters of Merom. (1-9) Hazor is taken and burned. (10-14) All that country subdued, The Anakims cut off. (15-23)
Verses 1-9 The wonders God wrought for the Israelites were to encourage them to act vigorously themselves. Thus the war against Satan's kingdom, carried on by preaching the gospel, was at first forwarded by miracles; but being fully proved to be of God, we are now left to the Divine grace in the usual course, in the use of the sword of the Spirit. God encouraged Joshua. Fresh dangers and difficulties make it necessary to seek fresh supports from the word of God, which we have nigh unto us for use in every time of need. God proportions our trials to our strength, and our strength to our trials. Joshua's obedience in destroying the horses and chariots, shows his self-denial in compliance with God's command. The possession of things on which the carnal heart is prone to depend, is hurtful to the life of faith, and the walk with God; therefore it is better to be without worldly advantages, than to have the soul endangered by them.
Verses 10-14 The Canaanites filled up the measure of their iniquity, and were, as a judgment, left to the pride, obstinacy, and enmity of their hearts, and to the power of Satan; all restraints being withdrawn, while the dispensations of Providence tended to drive them to despair. They brought on themselves the vengeance they justly merited, of which the Israelites were to be executioners, by the command the Lord gave to Moses.
Verses 15-23 Never let the sons of Anak be a terror to the Israel of God, for their day to fall will come. The land rested from war. It ended not in a peace with the Canaanites, that was forbidden, but in a peace from them. There is a rest, a rest from war, remaining for the people of God, into which they shall enter, when their warfare is accomplished. That which was now done, is compared with what had been said to Moses. God's word and his works, if viewed together, will be found mutually to set each other forth. If we make conscience of our duty, we need not question the performance of the promise. But the believer must never put off his armour, or expect lasting peace, till he closes his eyes in death; nay, as his strength and usefulness increase, he may expect more heavy trials; yet the Lord will not permit any enemies to assault the believer till he has prepared him for the battle. Christ Jesus ever lives to plead for his people, and their faith shall not fail, however Satan may be permitted to assault them. And however tedious, sharp, and difficult the believer's warfare, his patience in tribulation may be encouraged by the joyfulness of hope; for he will, ere long, rest from sin and from sorrow in the Canaan above.
Joshua 11:1-9 . DIVERS KINGS OVERCOME AT THE WATERS OF MEROM.
1-9. And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things--The scene of the sacred narrative is here shifted to the north of Canaan, where a still more extensive confederacy was formed among the ruling powers to oppose the further progress of the Israelites. Jabin ("the Intelligent"), which seems to have been a hereditary title ( Judges 4:2 ), took the lead, from Hazor being the capital of the northern region ( Joshua 11:10 ). It was situated on the borders of lake Merom. The other cities mentioned must have been in the vicinity though their exact position is unknown.
2. the kings that were on the north of the mountains--the Anti-libanus district.
the plains south of Chinneroth--the northern part of the Arabah, or valley of the Jordan.
the valley--the low and level country, including the plain of Sharon.
borders of Dor on the west--the highlands of Dor, reaching to the town of Dor on the Mediterranean coast, below mount Carmel.
3. the Canaanites on the east and on the west--a particular branch of the Canaanitish population who occupied the western bank of the Jordan as far northward as the Sea of Galilee, and also the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.
under Hermon--now Jebel-es-sheikh. It was the northern boundary of Canaan on the east of the Jordan.
land of Mizpeh--now Coelo-Syria.
4, 5. they went out, . . . as the sand that is upon the sea-shore in multitude--The chiefs of these several tribes were summoned by Jabin, being all probably tributary to the kingdom of Hazor. Their combined forces, according to JOSEPHUS, amounted to three hundred thousand infantry, ten thousand cavalry, and twenty thousand war chariots.
with horses and chariots very many--The war chariots were probably like those of Egypt, made of wood, but nailed and tipped with iron. These appear for the first time in the Canaanite war, to aid this last determined struggle against the invaders; and "it was the use of these which seems to have fixed the place of rendezvous by the lake Merom (now Huleh), along whose level shores they could have full play for their force." A host so formidable in numbers, as well as in military equipments, was sure to alarm and dispirit the Israelites. Joshua, therefore, was favored with a renewal of the divine promise of victory ( Joshua 11:6 ), and thus encouraged, he, in the full confidence of faith, set out to face the enemy.
6-8. to-morrow, about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel--As it was impossible to have marched from Gilgal to Merom in one day, we must suppose Joshua already moving northward and within a day's distance of the Canaanite camp, when the Lord gave him this assurance of success. With characteristic energy he made a sudden advance, probably during the night, and fell upon them like a thunderbolt, when scattered along the rising grounds (Septuagint), before they had time to rally on the plain. In the sudden panic "the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them." The rout was complete; some went westward, over the mountains, above the gorge of the Leontes, to Sidon and Misrephothmaim ("glass-smelting houses"), in the neighborhood, and others eastward to the plain of Mizpeh.
8. they left none remaining--of those whom they overtook. All those who fell into their hands alive were slain.
9. Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him--(See Joshua 11:6 ). Houghing the horses is done by cutting the sinews and arteries of their hinder legs, so that they not only become hopelessly lame, but bleed to death. The reasons for this special command were that the Lord designed to lead the Israelites to trust in Him, not in military resources ( Psalms 20:7 ); to show that in the land of promise there was no use of horses; and, finally, to discourage their travelling as they were to be an agricultural, not a trading, people.
11. he burnt Hazor with fire--calmly and deliberately, doubtless, according to divine direction.
13. as for the cities that stood still in their strength--literally, "on their heaps." It was a Phoenician custom to build cities on heights, natural or artificial [HENGSTENBERG].
16. So Joshua took all that land--Here follows a general view of the conquest. The division of the country there into five parts; namely, the hills, the land of Goshen, that is, a pastoral land near Gibeon ( Joshua 10:41 ); the valley, the plains and the mountains of Israel.
17. from the mount Halak--Hebrew, "the smooth mountain."
that goeth up to Seir--an irregular line of white naked hills, about eighty feet high, and seven or eight geographical miles in length that cross the whole Ghor, eight miles south of the Dead Sea, probably "the ascent of Akrabbim" [ROBINSON].
unto Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon--the city or temple of the god of destiny, in Baalbec.
23. Joshua took the whole land--The battle of the take of Merom was to the north what the battle of Beth-horon was to the south; more briefly told and less complete in its consequences; but still the, decisive conflict by which the whole northern region of Canaan fell into the hands of Israel [STANLEY].