Joshua: Chapter 12 - 31 Dead Kings

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2010-01-12

This chapter brings to a close the first section of the book by describing the territory that was conquered either by Moses on the eastern side of Jordan (verses 1-6) or by Joshua on the western side of Jordan (verses 7 to the end). The territory that Moses won and gave for a possession to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half tribe of Manasseh (verse 6) is described mainly by the towns in those areas. Mention is made of the two kings involved but the emphasis is on the territory itself. The territory that Joshua gave to the children of Israel for a possession (verse 7) is described mainly by naming the towns of the kings who were slain. There are details of the land and these are geographical/topographical in nature just as they are in the first section (see both verses 3 and 8).

There is another way to describe the two sections:

1-6 The land that the children of Israel conquered (verse 1)

7-24 The land that Joshua and the children of Israel conquered (verse 7)

Moses may not be referred to in the first verse of the chapter but he is mentioned in the last verse of the section. The question may well be asked, 'Why should Moses be mentioned at all and why at this stage?' The reason is that this chapter does not only bring to an end the section that deals with Joshua's conquests but it is the springboard for the second section of the book that deals with the division of the inheritance. There was land that had been allocated to the two and half tribes who were to live on the east side of Jordan (13.7-8) as well as the division of the land to the nine and a half tribes who were to be on the west side of Jordan (13.7). Moses' conquests had to do with the east side of Jordan and Joshua's to the west. They are brought together in the book of Joshua.

12:1 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:

Arnon means 'rushing stream' and is mentioned 25 times in the scriptures. This river and surrounding valley in south Palestine, forms the border between Moab and the Amorites. It flows into the Dead Sea halfway up its eastern side. We were told that it flows through a massive gorge that is, in places, 2300 feet deep (see notes in - permission granted to quote them on 010209)

Wikipedia describes Arnon in this way (280109): 'Arnon (Hebrew: &1488;&1463;&1512;&1456;&1504;&1493;&1465;&1503;) is a river and wadi in western Jordan, known in modern times in Arabic as Wadi Mujib. The Hebrew name means perhaps 'noisy', a term which well-describes the latter part of the course of the river. Its length is about 45 miles, from its highlands in the desert to its entrance into the Dead Sea. It broadens to a width of 100 feet locally, but for the most part is narrow. Though low in summer, it runs as a torrent in the rainy winter season and is 8 or 10 feet deep in places. Its course flows northwesterly, but downstream its course becomes westerly. Its striking feature is the steepness and narrowness of the ravine through which it passes shortly before it empties into the Dead Sea, opposite Ein Gedi. Between the lofty limestone hills, which cause this precipitous descent, and the sea, the river expands into a shallow estuary nearly 100 feet wide. The Arnon has always been an important boundary-line. Before the Hebrew period it separated, for a time at least, the Moabites from the Amorites (Numbers 21:13, 26; Deuteronomy 3:8; Judges 11:18). After the Hebrew settlement it divided, theoretically at least, Moab from the tribes of Reuben and Gad (Deut. 3:12, 16). But in fact Moab lay as much to the north as it did to the south of the Arnon. To the north, for example, were Aroer, Dibon, Medeba, and other Moabite towns. Even under Omri and Ahab, who held part of the Moabite territory, Israel did not hold sway farther south than Ataroth, about ten miles north of the Arnon. Mesha in his inscription (Moabite Stone, line 10) says that the Gadites (not the Reubenites) formerly occupied Ataroth, whence he in turn expelled the people of Israel. He mentions (line 26) his having constructed a road along the Arnon. The ancient importance of the river and of the towns in its vicinity is attested by the numerous ruins of bridges, forts, and buildings found upon or near it. Its fords are alluded to by Isaiah (16:2). Its "heights," crowned with the castles of chiefs, were also celebrated in verse (Numbers 21:28).'

Some of this detail will need to be considered when we move into the second half of the book. The territory appears to be the land northwards of the the river Arnon and up to Hermon in the north. For brief notes on Hermon see 11.3.

12:2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon;

Sihon means 'warrior' and is mentioned 37 times in scripture. He was a king of the Amorites at the time of the conquest and defeated by Moses in Transjordan.

Heshbon means 'stronghold' and is mentioned 38 times in scripture. It was the capital city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, located on the western border of the high plain and on the border line between what was to become the land possessed by the tribes of Reuben and Gad. This is where Sihon lived.

Aroer is a small town on the north bank of the river Arnon and about 12 miles from the Dead Sea. It marked the southern boundary of the territory of Sihon the king of the Amorites (he 'ruled from Aroer') and later of Reuben; modern Arair.

Gilead means 'rocky region'. It is a mountainous region bounded on the west by the Jordan, on the north by Bashan, on the east by the Arabian plateau, and on the south by Moab and Ammon. It is sometimes called 'Mount Gilead' or the 'land of Gilead' or just 'Gilead'. Gilead is divided into north and south Gilead.

Jabbok means 'emptying'. It is a stream that intersects the mountain range of Gilead, and falls into the Jordan on the east about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. It marks the northern boundary of Sihon's territory and the southern boundary of the children of Ammon. Ammon means 'tribal'. They were descendents of Lot through Ben-ammi.

12:3 And from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, the way to Bethjeshimoth; and from the south, under Ashdothpisgah *:

The sea of Chinneroth is the lake that we know as the Sea of Galilee. The salt sea is the Dead Sea. Bethjeshimoth means 'house of desolation' or 'house of the desert'. It was a place in Moab given to the tribe of Reuben. Ashdothpisgah means the 'slopes of Pisgah'. The mountains of Pisgah include Mt. Nebo.

The story describing the victory over Sihon and the Amorites is found in Numbers 21.21-32. Mention was made of the king's (high) way as found in Numbers 20.17 and 21.22.This was the route favoured by Moses as he brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and towards the Promised land.

12:4 And the coast of Og king of Bashan, which was of the remnant of the giants, that dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei,

Og means 'long-necked'. He was the Amorite king of Bashan and one of the last representatives of the giants of Rephaim (see Genesis 14.5, 'And in the fourteenth year came Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, and smote the Rephaims in Ashteroth Karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim'). Bashan means 'fruitful'. It is a district east of the Jordan known for its fertility and which was eventually given to the half-tribe of Manasseh. Ashtaroth is the name of a false goddesses in the Canaanite religion, usually related to a fertility cult. It would appear that the town took its name from this false goddess just as there were towns called Baalxxxxx (as in Baalgad).

12:5 And reigned in mount Hermon, and in Salcah, and in all Bashan, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and half Gilead, the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

Salcah means 'migration.' It was a town or district at the extreme eastern limit of Bashan and later allocated to the tribe of Gad; modern 'Sulkhad' which is 56 miles (90 km) east of the Jordan at the southern extremity of the Hauran mountain range.

This is the second mention of anything to do with Geshuri in the Bible. The first is found in Deuteronomy 3.14, 'Jair the son of Manasseh took all the country of Argob unto the coasts of Geshuri and Maachathi; and called them after his own name, Bashanhavothjair, unto this day.' Joshua 13 has something to say about the inability of the children of Israel to expel the Geshurites (and the Maachathites) out of the land (verse 13). Maachathites means 'pressure (literally she has pressed)'. Og's territory was the north on the eastern side of the river Jordan.

For the story describing the victory over Og read Numbers 21.33-35. The battle took place at Edrei.

12:6 Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.

Moses slew these two kings as we are told in the latter part of Numbers 21. The land that was conquered was given to the two and a half tribes that decided to stay on the east side of Jordan (see Joshua 1.12-15).

12:7 And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions;

12:8 In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:

The second and last section in the chapter lists the kings whom Joshua smote. Baalgad and Halak were mentioned in chapter 11 (verse 17). There is just this one brief statement about the territory before the more general statement that we have already encountered in chapter 10 (verse 40). The general statement of verse 8 brings together all the land that was conquered on the west side of Jordan and not just the parts that were in the south as in chapter 10.

12:9 The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one;

12:10 The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one;

12:11 The king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one;

12:12 The king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one;

12:13 The king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one;

12:14 The king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one;

12:15 The king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one;

12:16 The king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one;

12:17 The king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one;

12:18 The king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one;

12:19 The king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one;

12:20 The king of Shimronmeron, one; the king of Achshaph, one;

12:21 The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one;

12:22 The king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam of Carmel, one;

12:23 The king of Dor in the coast of Dor, one; the king of the nations of Gilgal, one;

12:24 The king of Tirzah, one: all the kings thirty and one.

31 kings were slain. Their names are not given but the cities that they represented. Though the king is in view the lack of the king's name shows that, ultimately, the territory is the all important thing. The question was asked, 'Why keep saying, 'The king of X, one'. It is clear that there is only one king. Why add the 'one' each time?' It was felt that Joshua dealt with these kings as one would deal with irritants and they were, in effect, being crossed off the list of irritants. There may be some merit in searching the meanings of the names of all the kings' cities but many of these have already been mentioned as we came across them in earlier chapters.


There are irritants in the way of our enjoyment of all that God has for us in Christ. It is for us to deal with them to get the most out of Christian life.