[Yehoshua 11 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
A Northern Confederacy Formed
1 And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor [Yavin Melech Chatzor] had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king [Yovav Melech] of Madon, and to the king of Shimron [Melech], and to the king [Melech] of Achshaph,
Jabin searched far and wide for allies. In taking this initiative, it is probable that he appreciated the extent of the crisis facing the northern Canaanites, more than other leaders in his region. Madon was five miles west of what was later to become the city of Tiberias.Shimron, it has been suggested, was 19 miles west of the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Achshaph was situated two miles from the coast, five miles north of Acca.
...With a firm hold upon the centre of the Promised Land, and having summarily defeated the combined forces of the southern Canaanites, it followed that the Israelites would now turn their attention towards conquering the northern part of the land. Again, any action which Joshua may have contemplated was preempted by the aggressive tactics initiated by the Canaanites.
Action eventuated because Joshua's hand was forced. But obviously the Hand of Providence was at work, developing a series of circumstances which would provide Israel with the victory they so clearly needed.
As Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem had been a key figure in the southern debacle, so a similar personality came to the fore in the north. He was Jabin, king of Hazor. His name or title means "the wise". Hazor means "castle". Jabin therefore typifies the "wisdom" of the flesh, belligerently entrenched, prepared to oppose the things of God (cp. 1 Cor. 1:19; 3:19).
Hazor was eight miles north of Capernaum, near Lake Huleh. It was the most powerful fortress-city in upper Galilee - hence, perhaps, the meaning of its name. Again, news had travelled fast. Jabin had "heard those things" concerning the astonishing victories which had brought Israel overwhelming supremacy throughout the southern regions of the land.
Jabin was stunned to learn that virtually all organised opposition against Israel had been crushed, from Jericho to Beth-horon, from the valley of Ajalon to Kadesh-barnea, and from Hebron to Gaza. Israel had swept all before them. *
2 And to the kings [melachim] that were on the north of the mountains [har], and of the plains [Aravah] south of Chinneroth [Kinnarot], and in the valley [Shefelah], and in the borders [ regions ] of Dor on the west,
Dor was on the coast, 15 miles west of Megiddo. *
3 And to the Canaanite [Kena'ani] on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains [Emori, and the Chitti, and the Perizzi, and the Yevusi in the har], and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh [Chivi at the base of Chermon in Eretz HaMitzpah].
In other words, the call to arms went out from Hazor to every major city and to every town from which able-bodied men might be rallied to the cause, under the leadership of their respective kings. *
4 And they went out, they and all their hosts [machanot] with them, much people [am rav], even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses [susim] and chariots very many [rav me'od].
The summons from Jabin went forth to those dwelling in an area of three hundred square miles. From this confederacy, according to Josephus, an awesome army was assembled. There were, claims the historian, 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 chariots. Almost certainly, such an army presented the most formidable opposition the Israelites had encountered. *
5 And when all these kings [melachim] were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel [Yisroel].
What would happen to the northern Canaanites? There was only one thing to be done: they must organise their forces and make ready for war. Like Adoni-zedek, Jabin "sent" word to the kings throughout northern Canaan. His intention was to unite all those whom he considered would agree to become confederate with him. This alliance typifies the
coalition of nations which will come from "the uttermost parts of the north" against the Greater Joshua, at Armageddon (Ezek. 38:6, R.V.).
...The impending battle would present a great trial to the faith of Joshua and his men, yet events were to prove that their courage and their faith was more than a match for the armed strength of the Canaanites. The lack of wise organisation among the Canaanites - both in the south and the north - is indicative of the divisive nature of life among these people.
Lacking any pre-arranged cohesion, it would have been extremely difficult to arrange logistics and the marshalling of the armies to the best advantage. Needless to say, such a lack of coordination among the Canaanites gave the Israelites certain invaluable advantages.
It will be observed that in all his major campaigns Joshua struck against the enemy as quickly as possible, before the Canaanites had opportunity to plan effective, clear-cut strategy.*
6 And Yahweh 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.
Joshua in v4 says nothing concerning the fearsome sight which the assembled enemy would have presented. The record is set down in terms which speak of a calm detachment, on the
part of the writer. Joshua was not concerned at such an amassing of fleshly might. His trust was in Yahweh, Who had demonstrated to Israel time and again that He possessed Power against which flesh could not stand.
The Canaanites doubtless trusted in their strength and their numbers. To an eye-witness they looked, in number, like "the sand that is upon the sea shore". And so it shall be with Gog, and those who will be confederated with him.
...Joshua was assured of victory. He had nothing to fear. Even the time of the victory was virtually stated. When these words were spoken Joshua was in Gilgal. Such a great
distance separated the opposing armies that for Israel to gain the victory
within twenty four hours seemed almost impossible.
...Joshua then understood what was required: a forced march, without delay, over a distance of nearly eighty miles! Joshua considered the matter carefully. He pondered the words which had been spoken: "I will deliver them up, all slain. . .".
Yahweh would do it.
In contrast to the Canaanites, the people of Israel were completely united. Speedily, Joshua sent his aides into action. The army was mobilised with the minimum of delay.
Thoughtfully, Joshua appraised the instructions which had come from Yahweh.
..."Tomorrow, about this time. . .".
"You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots" (J.B.). This meant cutting the sinews behind the horses' hooves, rendering them useless. This could be accomplished with considerable speed, indicating once again the need for rapid manoeuvrability and swiftness in the attack.
The horse is a Biblical symbol for warfare (Ex. 15:1; Prov. 21:31; Isa. 43:16-17; Jer. 8:6, etc.). As such, it symbolises man's trust in the arm of flesh. For this reason,Israel's kings were forbidden to "multiply horses" (Deut. 17:16). The nation and its leaders were to repudiate the flesh and trust only in Yahweh (Ps. 20:7; 147:10).
The "chariots" of the Canaanites were to be burned with fire. This was to signify total victory on the part of Israel, whilst at the same time disdainfully showing that Israel had no use for the chariots themselves. These instructions were conveyed to the people. The army, hastily but efficiently prepared, was ready to move. They marched northward to meet the enemy.*
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.
Communications between the northern Canaanitish kings were hastily established. Swiftly, messengers were sent back and forth. Expeditiously "these kings, having all agreed on a meeting place", planned their strategy (J.B.). It was agreed that their forces should assemble
"at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel".
Four tributaries come together to form the beginning of the river Jordan. The river then flows southward for seven miles before entering Lake Huleh. The "waters of Merom" have been placed eleven miles south-west of the southern tip of Lake Huleh. From there, a
valley at the foot of high ground leads gently downward to the Sea of Galilee, a further ten miles to the south.
In effect, it placed the Canaanite armies facing south, with the hill-country at their backs. Their intention would have been to meet the Israelites head-on, and drive them down into the lower regions around the Sea of Galilee. Of course, these kings knew their own territory only too well. It would have appeared that almost every advantage lay with them. And they were united in their objective: "to fight against Israel" (cp. Ps. 2:1-4; Isa. 26:10-11).
This alliance of fleshly might epitomises Gentile opposition against Israel down through the ages; a philosophy which will culminate in Armageddon. The strategy of the kings was sound. But not good enough. They had no concept of the God whom they were fighting. Joshua would have had scouts spread throughout the land. Reports of the gathering hordes in the north would have been reaching Joshua. He was in need of special encouragement at this time. And Yahweh gave it to him.*
The Battle for Northern Canaan (Vv.7-17)
In effect, Joshua repeated the strategy he had employed successfully against the southern confederacy of Canaanites. The enemy were organising and preparing. But they did not anticipate that the Israelites would attack so quickly. Sending out advance scouts, the army of Israel advanced quietly and swiftly through the darkness of night. Their approach was unknown to their adversaries.
Jabin and his associates had chosen a battleground which suited them. Obviously there was sufficient space in the valley to manoeuvre 20,000 chariots, together with a huge mass of infantry.
Despite their attempts to prepare for the conflict, the Canaanites were taken unawares. Joshua has demonstrated the enormous advantages gained from a specific method of attack: take the opposition by surprise, and join the battle whilst the enemy is off-balance.
So "Joshua and all his warriors caught them unawares. . .". Or: "Joshua and all the army came in upon them by the waters of Merom, suddenly. . ." (J.B., Roth.).
Precise details concerning Joshua's tactics have not been recorded. Perhaps, as at Gibeon, they struck at dawn from the heights on the east. With the sun behind them, and the enemy not anticipating an attack from the east, the Israelites "fell upon them".
This brief description indicates the swiftness and ferocity of the attack.No doubt the Canaanite chariots were at the forefront of their ranks, ready to lead an attack, with the cavalry and infantry drawn up, prepared to follow the initial onslaught made by the chariots.
Whatever strategy they may have had in mind, the Canaanites were not given the opportunity to take the initiative.
Quickly the horses were immobilised, leaving 20,000 nonplussed charioteers horrified at the suddenness and devastation of the attack, and totally unprepared for the hand-to-hand fighting which would have followed. The ranks of troops behind the chariots, probably "at ease" and relaxed, suddenly found their positions overrun by the Israelites.
Obviously, the main thrust of the Canaanite armaments would have been pointing due south, ready to meet the advancing Israelites. This would have left their eastern and western flanks somewhat vulnerable. Inevitably, there was a fearful slaughter.
"Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them. . .".The army of Israel "defeated and fell on them. . ." (J.B.).
Awesome things may be accomplished when men correctly harmonise faith and works, and the Hand of Providence adds a mighty blessing thereto. The Elohim manipulated the circumstances and the unfolding of events. Israel seized upon their opportunities and prosecuted the battle to the best of their ability.
"We are labourers together with God", wrote Paul (1 Cor. 3:9, cp. Mark 16:20).
As had happened at Gibeon, the enemy were thrown into confusion. They fled in terror before the swiftly moving, relentless Israelites. Joshua's army of faithful men were "faint, yet pursuing. . ." (Judg.8:4). These valiant warriors typify those who, through their dogged persistence in faithfulness to Yahweh, will ultimately gain eternal salvation in God's kingdom (2 Cor. 4:15-16; Gal. 6:9; Lk. 18:1).
The enemy was put to flight. Terror-stricken, the bulk of them remained together as a group, rather than scattering. They headed north-north-west towards "Great Zidon" - literally, Tzidon-rabba, which was the ancient name by which this large, wealthy city was
known. It was the capital of Phoenicia, situated thirty miles from Lake Huleh. Tzidon had been the firstborn son of Canaan (Gen.10:15); hence its history dates back to the founding of the degenerate Canaanitish nations.
The defeated armies also fled to Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh. The former was on the coast, due west from the northern end of Lake Huleh, whilst the latter, it has been suggested, lay somewhere in Gilead. This means that as Joshua's army pursued remorselessly after the retreating Canaanites, they fled in a north-westerly direction,
but then turned south, then east.
In their frenzy to escape the pursuit of the Israelites, the gradually diminishing army of the northern confederacy travelled almost full circle. Arriving eventually somewhere
south of Lake Huleh, they may well have continued their flight northward, on the eastern side of Jordan.
The Israelites refused to give up. They continued to chase the fleeing Canaanites, knowing that the victory had to be complete, breaking once and for all the combined military strength of the northern inhabitants of the land.
Joshua's army pursued the Canaanites for more than one hundred miles. The chase would have been exhausting and hazardous. With little time for sleeping and eating, and requiring a constant state of alertness at all times, the enormity of the enterprise is not readily grasped.
Only an army of men, totally dedicated to a cause, would expend themselves so fully.
They continued to hunt the petrified Canaanites ' 'until they left none remaining. . .". The confused and terrified northern army was decimated.
Joshua ensured that the nation fulfilled their divinely-appointed commission, "as Yahweh bade him. . . " .A simple statement, yet profound in principle.
"To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. . ." (1 Sam. 15:22; cp. Ex. 19:5; Jer. 7:23).
19 There was not a city [ir] that made peace [terms of shalom] with the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon [Chivi the inhabitants of Giv'on]: all other they took in battle [milchamah].
20 For it was of Yahweh to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel [Yisroel] in battle [milchamah], that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour [techinnah (mercy plea)], but that he might destroy them, as Yahweh commanded Moses [Moshe].
Harden their hearts.
This, however, would not be obviously miraculous. The nations would simply exhibit that disposition of reckless disregard, which is by no means an uncommon spectacle among mankind. There would, nevertheless, be a difference. The common indiscretions of men are due to what they are in themselves, while this would be generated by divine influence operating upon them, as came to pass in the case of Israel themselves afterwards in later ages, when, as Josephus testifies, the Jews seemed to act under a divine fury, impelling them to such wild attitudes and courses towards the Romans, as brought on their complete destruction.
Visible Hand of God
In prosecuting the campaign after the fall of Jericho, Joshua showed a disposition in some instances to treat amicably with the hostile inhabitants. Had they met his advances in a reasonable way, it would probably have resulted that some of them, at least, would have been spared the destruction that came upon them. But this would have been contrary to the divine purpose and intent. It was effectually prevented by God's incitement of the Canaanites to oppose.
Ways of Providence ch 12.