Joshua: Chapter 11 - The League of Kingdoms

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2009-07-28

The key verse in this chapter is that found in verse 18, 'Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.' It was not an easy task to claim the inheritance. The possession of the land did not come overnight. As Christians we have come into the land metaphorically speaking. There is no fight to be fought for Christians to gain their inheritance. This has been won for us by the Saviour at the cross of Calvary. As Christians we come into all the blessings that God has for us in Christ as soon as we appropriate the work of Christ to our souls. The blessings are ours the day that we are saved. We may not be aware of all the blessings that are ours in Christ and certainly not in those early days after salvation. Whether we know of them does not matter. They are ours. Whether we enjoy those blessings is another matter. Our citizenship is in heaven and we have the possibility of the enjoyment of those things that belong to eternity in the here and now. Sadly, there are many things that stand in the way of our enjoyment of these things. It is not only the world without but the flesh within that spoils our enjoyment of what God has for us in Christ. There is a fight to be fought to enable us to be in the good of our promised land and the fight may well be a long one.

Up until this point there has been but one mention of the inheritance and that was in 1.6. In this chapter there is another mention (verse 23) and then from chapter 13 to the end of the book there are 57 occurrences of inheritance and associated words.

The other phrase that is important is the very last phrase - 'the land had rest from war'. We should also look at Joshua 14.15, 21.44, 22.4, 23.1 with respect to this phrase. Hebrews 4.8-9 makes it abundantly clear that the rest that the land experienced, though no doubt typical of the ultimate rest of the child of God, was not that rest in itself. 'For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not have afterward spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God.' The people of God in this context are the children of Israel. The rest to which verse 9 refers is the Sabbath rest (the word is not used anywhere else in the NT and is different from the word used in verse 8). It being a Sabbath rest means that it is a cessation of something but it is not war but works as Hebrews 4.10 makes clear.

11:1 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,

Chapter 11 was described in the introduction as the northern campaign. Why? Firstly 10.40 says, 'So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south...' Then someone at sometime found out that these towns and cities in chapter 11 were located in the northern part of the land.

There are two Jabins in the Bible. Both of them were the king of Hazor. This one organised a confederacy of the northern princes against Joshua which was routed by the waters of Merom. The other had a general called Sisera who was defeated by Barak in Judges 4. The name Jabin means 'whom God observes'. Hazor occurs 19 times in the scriptures but refers to 4 different towns by that name. It means 'castle'. This Hazor, a royal city, is in northern Palestine and eventually became part of Napthali's territory.

Jobab means 'desert'. He was the king of Madon a town in the northern part of Canaan. Madon means 'strife'. It is very similar to the word Midian.

Shimron means 'watch-height' and was a royal Canaanitish city which eventually became part of Zebulun.

Achshaph means 'I shall be bewitched' and is again a Canaanitish city at the foot of Mount Carmel in the north of the land.

Verse 1 mentions four kings with Jabin being the king sending to the other three.

11:2 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,

Not only were these three kings invited to join Jabin but kings on the north (there is our word) of the mountains. 12.3 speaks of the sea of Chinneroth and this is the lake that we know from the NT as the Sea of Galilee. Chinneroth means 'harp shaped' and may be a reference to the shape of the lake. It lies on its NW shore. These kings were northern kings.

Dor means 'generation'. It is on the Mediterranean coast near to Carmel. Carmel is in the north and near to modern day Haifa.

11:3 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.

The tribes that are mentioned in this verse are the same ones to which references are made at the beginning of chapter 9 and, with an extra tribe mentioned (the Girgashites), in 3.10. Perhaps it was that there were those left from the chasing of the kings in the south of the country as recorded in chapter 10 who were able to join the northern people in their battle against Joshua.

There are six Mizpehs in scripture. This Mizpeh is at the foot of Mount Hermon and means 'watchtower'. Mount Hermon is near to Damascus right up in the north of the land. It is near to the place that we know as Caesarea Philippi from the NT. Hermon is 9100 foot mountain that has snow on its peak all year round. It is called Mount Sion in Deuteronomy 4.48. The word Hermon means 'abrupt'.

11:4 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.

There was a massive gathering of men to the battle. Deuteronomy 20.1 says, '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, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.' Psalm 20.7 says, 'Some trust in chariots and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.' The men from Canaan relied upon their horses and chariots. They considered this as modern technology. They also had a large number of men. To see this crowd and their superior technology was to make the children of Israel afraid but God had told them that they were not to be afraid.

11:5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

Merom means 'high place'. Merom is 10 miles to the west of the midway point between Lake Huleh and the lake we know as the Sea of Galilee. There was some discussion as to the location of Merom. The meaning of Merom may give an indication that this battle did not take place at the site of some great lake like the Sea of Galilee but at a place, no doubt where there was a quantity of water, but higher up.

11:6 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.

We have noted on many occasions that God speaks with Joshua to tell him not to be afraid on many occasions. God was going to deliver up the enemy. All that Joshua was required to do was to deal with the horses and the chariots.

The word 'hough' means to cut the hamstring. The definition for hough given in Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary is to hamstring, i.e., sever the "tendon of Achilles" of the hinder legs of captured horses (Josh. 11:6; 2 Sam. 8:4; 1 Chr. 18:4), so as to render them useless. Why should such a thing need to be done? The children of Israel were not to put their confidence in horses. On winning the battle there would be a lot of spare horses and they may well have proved to be a temptation to use them and rely on them. God said, 'hough their horses' so that they could not be used and there was no temptation to trust them. Useless horses would not be a temptation to the people of God. Useful horses may well have been.

It was also suggested that to bury a host of dead horses would have been time consuming and that this was the reason for the command. We are not told why God said that the horses should be houghed and so everything that was suggested was that - a suggestion. One useful conversation aimed at spiritualising the story revolved around the matter of the world. There are many things that we have to do whereby we rub shoulders with the world. This may be in pursuit of earning money by working which is a necessary part of Christian living. Such things are legitimate and we may not remove ourselves from them nor indeed can they be removed from us. But we can get involved with the world of work beyond that which is necessary. We have to be pleasant in the course of duty but not to get over involved. The world of work then becomes a power which can get out of control. It is for us to make such things have little power and influence on us. They may not be able to be removed (destroyed) but we are able to limit their power.

11:7 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 came with his warriors to the battle scene. The use of the word 'suddenly' is interesting in that we read that word in the same connection in chapter 10 and verse 9. There was an element of surprise in chapter 10. The same is true here. To fall upon them means to defeat, to overthrow them.

11:8 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 is Sidon in Lebanon as in Tyre and Sidon. It means 'catching fish, hunting'. It appears as Zidon 21 times in the OT (Zidonians are mentioned 9 times). Sidon is mentioned 14 times in the NT (Sidonians 5 times). Misrephothmaim means 'burnings of water'.

As there was a sudden arrival of Joshua in both chapters 10 and 11 so there was a chase in both chapters. The first part of the verse declares that God did the smiting and chasing (though there is no mention of hailstones here). The latter part of the verse states that the children of Israel smote them until they left nothing remaining (see verse 14 for the qualification).

11:9 And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.

We have previously noted that Joshua is the obedient one. Nothing has changed in chapter 11. Should God tell him to do something then he did it. See verse 15.

11:10 And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms.

A chase has taken place and, though there was no imprisonment inside a cave as with the five kings in chapter 10, there was a retracing of footsteps to search out the king of Hazor and to slay him. This city was also destroyed with the specific of burning with fire mentioned in the next verse. The figurehead had been slain. Joshua did not expect any further trouble from these kings of the north.

11:11 And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.

We have come across similar phrases in the previous chapter (10.40 for which see). As we have already pointed out this verse means that there were no humans who were left alive. The destruction was utter and complete.

11:12 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.

This utter destruction was the mind of God as revealed to Moses and passed on to Joshua.

11:13 But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn.

The question may be asked, 'Why did Joshua allow strong cities to remain?' We are not clearly told the reason but it was suggested that not everything could be destroyed even though every person could be slain. The people of God would need the cattle and the trees and the houses for they were no longer going to be tent dwellers. They had to live in this land that was to become theirs. They had to live there straightaway. Had the whole land been destroyed it would have taken some years for the land to bring forth fruit. The burning of Hazor was symbolic for the head of those kingdoms lived there.

11:14 And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe.

Here is the clear explanation of what took place though we do not get told the reason why (see 10.40).

11:15 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.

What a testimony was Joshua's. He left nothing undone. That is true of our heavenly Joshua for He left nothing undone. There was no unfinished business with Him. I Kings 1 tells of a man on his death bed and David passed on messages to those faithful to him to see to it that things that he had left undone were done.

Wouldn't it be grand to have an epitaph like Joshua's? Brother X, sister Y left nothing undone. This is God's assessment of Joshua's actions. We may say, 'But look what went wrong at Ai. Look at the way that the Gibeonites were able to deceive Joshua.' But God looks at the story thus far and says that Joshua left nothing undone.

The question was asked how long it had been between Moses giving the command and Joshua responding to the command. An answer of weeks or at most a few months was given.

God gave Moses the command. Moses passed on the command to Joshua. We have seen that Joshua passed the messages that he received onto the officers of the people for them to convey to the people or onto the people directly. Things were passed onto children. Joshua 8.35 says, 'There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.' It was at this stage in the reading that II Timothy 2.2 was quoted, 'And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.' The baton of truth has to be passed onto faithful men for transmission to further faithful men so that truth gets passed from generation to generation.

It is interesting to note that of the 49 times that command and associated words are mentioned in Joshua that three of them appear in this one verse. Repetition like this is not encouraged by those who teach us to write. God makes sure that this word command is repeated. He made it quite clear that there was a chain of command and that nothing of those commands was lost by transmission from one to the other. It is testimony to Joshua's greatness (and indeed of his predecessor) that this took place.

11:16 So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same;

By obedience ('so' - so could mean in this way) Joshua took the whole land (see Verse 23). The truth is presented as Joshua being the victor (see notes on verse 23) although there were many men who accompanied him in the battles that were fought. It was pointed out that the translation should read, 'So Joshua took all this land'. The person who wrote the book did so as a resident within the land.

As to what was taken, this appears to be split into two. The land, hills, all the south country, and all the land of Goshen refers to the land in the south of the country. The Hebrew word for south country is negeb. We call this area the Negev today. Goshen was a district - the land of Goshen. There was a town within that area, also called Goshen, which was 12 miles SW of Hebron (see 10.41). The word Goshen is probably of Egyptian origin. Goshen marked the SW boundary of the land.

The second part is the valley, the plain, and the mountain of Israel and the valley of the same. The valley is the shephelah which was described as the downs. The plain is the Arabah which was described as the Jordan valley. The mountain is the har (which forms part of the word Armageddon - hill or mountain of Megiddo). The ANSV translates this word as hill country. It is the same word as 'hills' in the first part of the verse. Clearly these were other hills than the Judean hills (should these be called the hills of what was to become Judah rather than the NT term and are these the hills of the first part of the verse?). Perhaps these were northern hills though the next verse suggests a progression around the south of the country over to the east and then up to the north. .

11:17 Even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them.

Halak means 'bald' so that mount Halak means the 'bald mountain'. Halak is south of Beersheba by 27 miles and marks the southernmost part of the territory. Seir means 'rough'. This area marked the SE boundary of the land.

Baalgad marks the northern limit of Joshua's conquests. It lies at the foot and to the west of Mount Hermon. The connection with the god Baal is clear. The name means 'Baal of fortune'.

It would appear that verse 16 and 17 describe the land starting at what was to become Judea and moving to the SW and then to the south and then over to the south east (crossing the river) and then up through the land on the eastern side of Jordan up to Hermon in the north.

Chapter twelve elaborates on the slaying of the kings and numbers and names them all.

11:18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.

The conquest was not easy. Ours may be the possession of eternal blessings but the battle to enjoy them is long and hard and there is no let up all our days on earth. The Christian life is not a fairground. It is a battleground. The Christian life is no picnic.

It is thought best to list some of the references to this battleground in the NT to show that there is a lot of scripture on this subject.

The whole of Romans 6-8 could be considered relevant to this topic. One section is included here. 'For I delight in the law of God after the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.' Romans 7.22-23. The Lord Jesus delighted in the law of God. He is the godly Man of Psalm 1 who meditates in the law of God day and night. His delight is in it. With the apostle there was another law at work in his members warring against the law of his mind (which wanted to obey the law of God) and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members. There was a conflict there. With the Lord Jesus there was no such conflict. There was no law of sin in His members to cause a conflict. It was not a case of a battle with the inner and the outer man with Him. There was no battle to be fought in His case. He delighted in the law of God after the whole man.

'For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.' II Corinthians 10.3-5

'This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would...' Galatians 5.16-17. The scripture continues on this same subject to the end of the chapter.

'Finally my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places...' Ephesians 6.10-12. The passage continues in this vain until the end of verse 18.

'Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.' Philippians 2.12

'But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.' I Timothy 6.11-12

'Though therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.' II Timothy 2.3-4. This is the only NT scripture that refers to the Christian as a soldier.

'I have fought a good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.' II Timothy 4.7

There are many other scriptures that could be added to this selection. It may be useful for each reader to see if this list could be made comprehensive and exhaustive such is the importance of this line of teaching in scripture.

11:19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle.

The only city to make peace with the children of Israel was Gibeon. It was commented that it almost sounds that, the method apart, there was virtue in the Gibeonites making peace with the children of Israel.

11:20 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 favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.

The subject of the utter destruction of God's enemies as presented to us in Joshua was raised. The scripture in Genesis 15.16 was quoted, 'But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.' The iniquity of the Amorites was full by the time that the events recorded in the book of Joshua took place. The Amorites were exceedingly wicked and God brought judgment upon them. The children of Israel were also God's agents in bringing destruction and judgment upon the Amorites in the land.

God does not harden hearts that have not already hardened themselves. The subject of Joshua 11.21 is not the eternal salvation or eternal damnation of individuals. This hardening of hearts was to bring the inhabitants of the land to the point that they would go on the offensive against the children of Israel (they did not do this at first) so that judgment could be poured out on their wickedness.

The example of Pharaoh was quoted. It was pointed out that God did not harden his heart until he first hardened his own heart. God may have said that He was going to harden Pharaoh's heart in Exodus 4.21 and 7.3 but there is no indication that He had done so at that stage. Exodus 7.13 tells us that the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart but Exodus 8.15 lets us know that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Some may say that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart by God came before his own hardening. Though not stated specifically the language that he uses at the beginning of chapter five shows a hard heart. God's purpose in hardening Pharaoh's heart was to make God's power shown (Ex.9.15-16, 'For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth' is quoted by the apostle Paul in Romans 9.17). It was to release His people with power. That was the reason for God choosing Pharaoh. It was not for damnation but for demonstration. The passage has nothing to do with eternal salvation. It has to do with demonstration of God's power in this potentate, the most powerful of his time. That God could overthrow this man was to be a lesson to the people of God who were coming out from under his tyrannical power and to the whole world. This matter of God hardening Pharaoh's heart should not be taken any further than the words found in the text. This also applies to Joshua 11.20

11:21 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.

Anakim (there is no need for the s at the end of the word) were those of Anak. The word means 'necklace, chain (as if strangling)'. These were the giants that caused such trouble as the children assayed to enter the land the first time round. Debir was a city in the Judean hills. The name means 'shrine, innermost part of the sanctuary, oracle'. Anab means 'to bear fruit, grape, wine'. Notice that there is mention made of both the mountains of Judah and the mountains of Israel.

11:22 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.

Not all the Anakim were slain however. There were those in what was to become the land of the Philistines that were not cut off. Goliath came from Gath (I Samuel 17).

11:23 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.

The children of Israel were involved in the battles as we have read throughout the book to this point. But this verse states that the acquisition of the land could be traced to Joshua - 'so Joshua took the whole land.' (see verse 16). We then read that he gave it to the children of Israel for an inheritance (see last clause Joshua 12.7). This is precisely what our heavenly Joshua has done for us. He fought the fight alone at Calvary. There was no assistance on our part for the event took place 2000 years ago. Had we been there we could never have helped to secure our salvation. This work was His alone. He did it all. His death has given us life. The believer is the one who accepts the free gift of God which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is mention made of the division of the land and this is the subject of the latter part of the book so that the first part of the book deals with subduing the land and the second with subdividing the land.

The narrative continues with the phrase that the land rested from war. Every picture in the OT of persons or principles in the NT are, at best, pictures and types. They are not the substance. The limitations of the picture that is found in Joshua and which we have considered in these early chapters are explained in Hebrews 4. This was mentioned in the introduction to this chapter. The rest that the land experienced, though no doubt typical of the ultimate rest of the child of God in heaven, was not that rest in heaven itself. 'For if Jesus (Joshua) had given them rest, then would he not have afterward spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest unto the people of God.' The people of God in this context are the children of Israel. The rest to which Hebrews 4 verse 9 refers is the Sabbath rest (the word is not used anywhere else in the NT and is different from the word used in verse 8). It being a Sabbath rest it means that it is a cessation of something but it does not refer to a cessation of war but to a cessation of works as Hebrews 4.10 makes clear. It is only when a person ceases from doing and starts trusting that the work of Christ that they can be partakers of the eternal rest.


Chapter 11 is towards the end of the first section of the whole book. Summaries of the activities that had taken place are presented in verse 16 and 17 in particular. The same lesson that we have seen throughout of simple obedience comes across very strongly in the chapter.