Notes on Joshua 11, 1 thru 9

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

1 And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard (those things), that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph,

Joshua and Israel had conquered southern Canaan. These cities were in the northern region. The exact distance from Gilgal to these locations is not specified.

2 And to the kings that (were) on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west,

“Chinneroth” is another name for the Sea of Galilee. There are alternate spellings elsewhere in the Old Testament, such as “Chinnereth (Num.34:11, Deut. 3:17)”, and “Cinneroth (1 Kings 15:20)”.

3 (And to) the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and (to) the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and (to) the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.

These are six of the tribes or nations whom God promised to drive out (Josh 3:10). Some of the Jebusites had been put to death in the campaign for south Canaan but it seems other members of this tribe or nation continued to exist—note that Joshua said these Jebusites were “in the mountains”, as compared to Jebus or Jerusalem itself.

Hermon is a mountain in the northern regions of Canaan. This mountain is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, sometimes in poetic terms (Ps. 133:3, Song 4:8).

4 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.

Note the progression:, first, one city (Jericho) conquered by nothing except marching and a loud shout; then Ai, after a counterattack; later, a coalition of five kings and their armies defeated by Divine intervention (hailstones) from the sky, resulting in more enemy casualties than those inflicted by Israel’s army. Now they are facing six entire nations, in a large section of Canaan’s northern region.

Tragically, the Hittites were opposed to Israel and were joined in battle against them. Ephron the Hittite had sold some land for a burial ground to Abraham (Genesis 23) and Esau, grandson of Abraham, married two Hittite women (Gen. 26:34). Later on, Ahimelech (1 Sam 26:6), Uriah (2 Sam 11:3), and perhaps other Hittites came to Israel. Solomon loved and married some Hittite women (1 Kings 11:1) but there is no record that he was able to lead any of them to faith in the God of Israel.

“The sand upon the sea shore” is a phrase used several times in the Old Testament and seems to refer to a large multitude. Abraham was promised that his descendants would be like the “sand. . .upon the sea shore. . . (Gen 22:17)” and the same figure of speech was used of the good years of harvest in Egypt (Gen 41:49).

5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

The “waters of Merom” are only mentioned in this chapter. We are not given the exact location.

6 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: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.

Note the progression, this time in the quality of the enemy’s weapons. Chariots had existed since at least the time of Joseph, in Egypt (Genesis 41:43, 46:29) and seemed to be used for transportation as well as for war. The Pharaoh of the Exodus had at least 600 chariots plus, perhaps, even more (Ex. 14:7) But this was apparently the first time the Israelites faced chariots in battle.

Regardless of how many chariots the enemy used in battle, God promised Joshua that Israel would burn all the chariots. God again promised victory to His chosen people.

The reference to horses, here and in verse 4 may refer to cavalry, again something new to Israel. “Hough”—pronounced “hock”, per this link –means “to hamstring”, the horses in this case. The exact outcome is uncertain.

7 So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them.

Joshua and Israel had marched from southern Canaan (apparently from the camp at Gilgal; we do not read of any other such location at this time) to the northern areas. The record does not say how long it took them—Israel—to arrive in the northern region. When Israel did arrive, they attacked!

8 And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining.

Zidon may refer to Sidon, close to Tyre, but we do not know this for sure. Misrephothaim’s location is uncertain, as is “the valley of Mizpeh”. The only definite fact is that these places were in the northern region of Caanan. Joshua and Israel completely destroyed the enemy forces.

9 And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.

Some may question Joshua’s practice of houghing or hamstringing the horses. According to Deut. 17:16, the king was not to multiply horses for himself, even though there is nothing recorded which kept the people from owning horses. The one thing for certain that God wanted to impress on Israel was to rely on Him for victory, not their own weapons or handiwork. One look at this passage should have made it clear to them that victory only comes when God promised it, never as a result of our own planning!

Also note the irony: the chariots, designed for war, did not survive the fire when Joshua burned them.

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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