Joshua 10: Victory in the South
You remember the people who said that they came from far away and made an agreement of friendship with the children of Israel at Gilgal. Where did they really live? At Gibeon. And where was Gibeon? When other kings of the southern cities (verse 3) heard that the Gibeonites were friends of Israel, they came together to attack Gibeon. Then the Gibeonites sent for Joshua, and he came by a hurried march by night with soldiers of Israel. There was a battle near Gibeon. The Lord's power was with Joshua and he chased the armies of the southern kings down from the hills and off into the level country.
You find the name Beth-horon in verse 11, and you find on the map Upper Beth-horon and Lower Beth-horon. These places were at the top and the foot of a rough pass leading from the hills down into the low country. It has been famous in history, for many armies have found their way up or down this pass. The enemies of Gibeon fled by this way, and the soldiers of Israel attacked them, going down the rough road. Great hailstones also fell and killed many of them. Still the children of Israel chased them till they came to a place with caves and in one of these the five kings hid themselves.
One very interesting thing in connection with this battle: It was perhaps as Joshua stood at the Upper Beth-horon at the top of the rough pass, looking across the broad meadows to the sea, that he said, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." And the story says, "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies." A light was given them from heaven like the sun, and another light like the moon, which made the day longer for them.
Afterward the five kings were brought from the cave and killed, and Joshua and his soldiers made a raid through the south country and took and destroyed the strong cities. This gave the children of Israel victory over the southern part of the country. "And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal."
Have some of you a picture of the ruins of Lachish, with a part of the mound dug away to find the ruined buildings and other relics of the old times? Among the things found at Lachish is a little thing like a cracker. It is made of clay baked hard. The queer marks covering both sides of it are writing. It is a letter written in the time of Joshua. It is from towns not far away, begging for help from Lachish to protect them from enemies who were spoiling their country.
Gilgal, Jericho, Ai, Gibeon. The children of Israel had come into the very heart of the land. Next they conquered the country to the south and then the country to the north. We learned today of the victory over the southern country. Keep your map before you for this lesson. You must think of this country as a highland, on the east breaking down steeply to the deep Jordan valley and the Dead Sea, on the west falling more gently and still quite suddenly to the broad, green Philistine meadows which stretch away to the Mediterranean. When the people went from Gilgal to Ai, were they going up or down? (Joshua 7:3-5; Luke 10:30)
Joshua and the children of Israel were in the camp at Gilgal, and the people of Gibeon had made the league of friendship with them. The king of Jerusalem called four other kings of the southern country to join him, and the five kings with their armies went against Gibeon and camped in the plain in which the hill of Gibeon stands. We know Jerusalem and Hebron. Lachish and Eglon we find near together in the Philistine country in the line between Hebron and Askelon. Jarmuth (el-Yermuk) was about half way between Lachish and Jerusalem.
When the Gibeonites saw this army camped against their city they sent for help to Joshua, in the camp at Gilgal. "Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night," and the Lord gave the children of Israel the victory at Gibeon. From Gibeon the enemy fled toward the Philistine country. The two Beth-horons are on the way. The first to which they came is Upper Beth-horon. Here you are on the edge of the highland and look out over the lower hills and the plain to the sea. Two miles farther on is Lower Beth-horon. Between the two it is a narrow rocky path going steeply down. Here the children of Israel overtook the fleeing enemies. Great hailstones also fell and killed many of them. Still the children of Israel chased them far out into the Philistine country to Makkedah near Ekron. Here there were caves and in one of them the five kings hid themselves.
Perhaps it was at Beth-horon that Joshua cried, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon." Gibeon was in the southeast, and Ajalon the same distance away to the southwest. A light was given to the children of Israel by the Lord, so that it seemed to them that the sun and moon stood still to help them, for a whole day. The words which Joshua spoke to the sun and moon were written in the book of Jasher, which was a book of sacred prophecy, a part of the Ancient Word, which was the Bible before our Bible was written.
Someone may ask, Could the sun and moon stand still without upsetting the order of the universe? Swedenborg answers, "This miracle, if it had been literally accomplished, would have inverted the whole order of nature, which is not the case with the rest of the miracles recorded in the Word. . . . But nevertheless that a light was given to them out of heaven as the light of the sun in Gibeon and a light as that of the moon in the valley of Ajalon is not to be doubted." (E. 401)
Then Joshua and his army made a wide circuit through the southern country and destroyed many cities. Libnah is unknown. The kings of Lachish and Eglon were among the five who had made war. The king of Gezer, a town of the foot-hills not many miles from the caves where the kings had hid, came to help Lachish, but he and his army were destroyed. From Eglon, Joshua turned up the valley into the hills to Hebron, another of the cities whose king made war. He then turned south to Debir, half way to Beer-sheba.
So the power of the children of Israel was felt through all the southern country, even to Kadeshbarnea, where the people camped when the spies were sent through the land, and to Gaza near the seashore. Goshen: not Goshen in Egypt, but a district perhaps between Gaza and Gibeon. All this they were able to do "because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal."
1. Who fought with the children of Israel at Gibeon? The king of Jerusalem and four other kings.
2. What helped the Israelites in the battle? Hail fell upon their enemies, and a light was given them out of heaven as if the sun and moon stood still.
3. After the battle which way did the conquerors go before returning to the camp at Gilgal? They made a circuit through Philistia and the South Country.
We must learn more about the saying, "Sun, stand thou still," etc. What was the book of Jasher, or of the Upright, from which the words are taken? See S. 103, which tells you about the book of the Wars of Jehovah and the Enunciations and the book of Jasher, which were books of the Ancient Word, before our Word was written. We have short quotations from the Ancient Word in Num. 21:14, 15; 27-30, and another quotation from the book of Jasher in 2 Sam. 1:17, 18. And do not forget that the early chapters of Genesis are from the Ancient Word, the first seven chapters precisely (S. 103 end), and the first eleven chapters in substance (A. 66).
But what does the saying mean spiritually, about the sun and moon standing still? The sun with its fire and heat is a type of love, the Lord's love and love from Him in our hearts; and the moon with its cooler light is a type of the Divine truth and the light of faith in our minds. The standing still of sun and moon here means that the love represented by the sun and the faith represented by the moon were utterly perverted with those with whom Israel was fighting. Their judgment was at hand. (E. 401; R. 53)
What is represented by the destruction of many of the enemies by great hailstones from heaven? Gentle rain from heaven is a picture of refreshing truth from the Lord, showing us how to live and to find life beautiful and fruitful. Hard hail may sometimes picture stern truth condemning what is false and evil. But here, and usually in Scripture, it represents falsities into which truth is perverted in evil minds. Then instead of gentle and encouraging truth from the Lord, people may believe and teach hard cruel thoughts which are destructive of a real heavenly life. Hail was one of the plagues of Egypt. (Exod. 9:22-26) The kings in our story were smitten by hailstones, "by which were signified dire falsities of evil." (E. 401)
The land of Canaan represents heaven and a heavenly life, but the people occupying the land when the children of Israel came represented the evils which must be overcome before a heavenly life can be enjoyed. We shall find when we study the division of the land among the tribes that the southern part of Canaan represents especially childlike states of heavenly affection. Here were Bethlehem and other towns of very holy associations. The southern kings of our story represent evils which are the opposites of childlike heavenly affections - hatred, revenge and cruelty, springing from self-love. (A. 2904, 4750) The king of Jerusalem, who ought to represent a very interior state, was the leader of these enemies.
The conflict was brought on by the southern kings attacking the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites, who made the league with Israel, represent something of simple good preserved by the Lord and given a place in the spiritual life. The evil in us attacks the good things which remain from childhood. The spiritual nature hastens with the Lord's help to the defense.