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A superficial reading of this chapter may leave the reader with the impression that it amounts to little more than a rather dull cataloguing of Israel's conquests.
Such a conclusion would be most unfortunate, and far from thetruth. A cursory reading of any chapter of the Bible will provide minimum enlightenment. The Bible has been authored and inspired upon the principle that "the glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of kings is to search out a thing. . ." (Prov. 25:2, Roth.).
To "search out" the deeper... aspects of the divine revelation requires careful study,accompanied by thoughtful meditation. This ideal applies to the twelfth chapter of Joshua, as much as to any portion of God's word.
The chapter provides a summary of Israel's conquests up to this time - but from a particular standpoint. Joshua does not endeavour to list all the cities and towns which had been conquered, but only the kings and their strongholds. There is remarkable significance in this, which will be considered in due course.
Verses one to six list the kings on the east of Jordan who had been defeated by Israel. The rest of the chapter provides details concerning the kings who had been overcome on the west of Jordan.
Joshua's record, insofar as it goes, is meticulous. He mentions the region "from the river Arnon unto Mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east. . ." The last word has been rendered from the Hebrew arabah, which had a particular application to the depression of the Jordan Valley. West of Jordan, Joshua has defined Israel's borders as from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon to the bald mountain "that goeth up to Seir" (cp. 11:17 with 12:7). These details describe an area about 180 miles in length, and with a width varying from 40 to 70 miles.
Comparing the vast areas of territory which have come under the dominion of various nations throughout the ages, down to our present times, the size of this area is not particularly impressive. Moreover, this relatively small area nowhere near compares with the inheritance promised to Abraham. It should be borne in mind, however, that this territory has been associated with the exercising of a phenomenal influence on the course of world history, with which no other region could be compared.
From within its borders the prophets of Yahweh forthrightly revealed the word of God. Over a period of one and a half millennia, the divine revelation to humanity was unfolded and recorded. Within this land, Yahweh made His covenants with Abraham and David, which were to guarantee the ultimate destiny of human history. From this land God's own Son spoke words of eternal life to all who would hear. He died there. And there he rose to life everlasting.
Although Israel has never yet possessed all the land promised to Abraham, it still remains the Land of the Book, and therefore the focal-point of the earth-the centre of civilisation to which, in due course, all men will be drawn to worship Israel's God (Zech. 14:16,etc.).*
1 Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:
There is... a deeper significance in the listing of these kings. Two are recorded as having been defeated on the east of Jordan, and thirty-one on the west.
The total number of kings comes to thirty-three. Why this particular number? Because it typifies the number of years Christ unrelentingly fought his warfare against the forces of sin! Having attained the age of thirty-three years he laid down his life. He had defeated sin, even as Joshua brought to fruition the warfare against the kings of the land. In their total number they typify King Sin (Rom. 6: 12-16).
A similarity of principles between the number of kings recorded here and the purification of a woman after having given birth to a male child, is unmistakable (cp. Lev. 12:1-4). Following the birth, the woman was to remain "unclean" for seven days. On the eighth day the male child was presented to Yahweh through the ritual of circumcision.
The eighth day symbolised the cutting off of flesh, and a new beginning. However, the woman's purification was not completed until another thirty-three days had passed. During that time she was not permitted to enter the sanctuary. Similarly, it was not until the Lord's
thirty-fourth year that he was delivered from Adamic nature, and in the fulness of divine nature was able to pass literally into "the sanctuary" of his Father's presence.
Thus this chapter provides a wonderful cameo which typifies Christ's victory over sin. But, by implication, it does more than that. Yahweh established a way whereby mankind might draw near unto Him through the One whom He has provided. It follows that Christ is able to lead his brethren to victory, even as Joshua did in the battles which have been briefly alluded to in this chapter.
An army involved in combat can only settle their conflict in one of three ways: either they are defeated, or they compromise with their enemy, or they gain a complete and total victory.
Those who wholeheartedly desire to follow Christ cannot permit themselves to be
defeated by King Sin, nor can they conceivably waive the principles which Christ has taught them. If they remain faithful, their Lord will give them the victory over sin - even as Joshua led Israel to triumph over the kings of the Canaanites.
Bro John Ullman