Joshua 11: Victory in the North
What country is this (looking together at a map or a picture of a raised map of Canaan)? Show me on the map where the children of Israel came into the land. What cities and what part of the land have they already taken? The southern part, which is the lower part of the map. And how about the northern part of the country, the upper part of the map? That is still to be conquered. It is a rough, hilly country, and in the far north are high mountains, Mount Hermon and Mount Lebanon. There is a sea shore on the west. The river Jordan rises from great springs under Mount Hermon and runs toward the south. It runs through this meadow and this little lake known in the old time as the waters of Merom. It then runs on to this larger lake, the Sea of Galilee. The kings of this northern country and kings from far away, on every side, united to fight with Joshua and the army of Israel. The leader of them all was Jabin, and his city Hazor was on the hills northwest of the waters of Merom. Here the armies gathered. Have you found the place? The enemies had horses and chariots which were useful in the plains. We remember the horses and chariots of Egypt in Pharaoh's army at the Red Sea. The battle was at Hazor. The Lord made Joshua and the army of Israel strong and gave them
the victory. They took Hazor and burnt it, and afterward took many other cities. Our story tells us that the war was long: "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." At last the whole country was taken by the children of Israel. "And the land rested from war."
I ask you, as I asked the younger children, to look at a map or the picture of a raised map of the land of Canaan, and to begin by showing me what part of the land the children of Israel have already conquered. Jericho, Ai and the southern country after the battle at Gibeon and Beth-horon. Another campaign gave them the northern country. Some of this country you know in its later history. Here are the mountains and hills of Samaria near Shechem. Here is Mount Carmel and the great plain of Esdraelon. Here are the hills of Galilee where Nazareth is, where the Lord lived as a boy, and the Sea of Galilee (called in our chapter Chinneroth), where the Lord did so many miracles and spoke so many parables and lessons. Farther up on the Jordan is this smaller lake, the waters of Merom, and broad open meadows with marshes near the lake where much plumy papyrus grows. Here in the far north are the large mountains, Hermon and Lebanon, their ridges much of the year white with snow. Over on the Mediterranean shore are Tyre and Sidon (spelled in our chapter Zidon), important cities in the old days. The kings of many cities in this northern country came together at Hazor on the hills northwest of the waters of Merom, under Jabin, king of Hazor, who was their leader. Among the people who came together are mentioned Canaanites from the east and west. The Canaanites were the lowlanders living in the plains, especially by the Jordan and by the sea. There were also Amorites, highlanders, the people of the hills. The enemies were very many, like the sand upon the seashore. They also had many horses and chariots. Would these be useful in the hills or on the plains? We shall later have a story in which the children of Israel fight against horses and chariots in the plain of Esdraelon by the Kishon. (Judges 4) If you turn to the chapter, note that those horses and chariots belonged to Jabin who lived at Hazor. It was long afterward and was another Jabin, but they were of the same line of kings and both lived in Hazor and both had horses and chariots in their army. In fighting the horses and chariots, it speaks of houghing the horses. It means cutting the tendon of the hind leg above the projecting joint. It was a cruel custom of those days but quickly put the horses out of action. The Lord made the children of Israel strong, and they made a sudden attack. The enemies fled in several directions, to the west and north. Zidon you know on the Mediterranean shore.
Many cities were taken by Joshua and the children of Israel after the battle. Only Hazor was destroyed. The high land and the low land, "the mountain of Israel and the valley of the same," were conquered. If we were to look up the cities named, we should find them widely scattered. And we are told that Joshua destroyed the Anakim (Num. 13:33) from Hebron and the mountains of Judaea as well as from the mountains of Israel. The giants remained only in a few cities (Remember that Goliath was from Gath). The wide sweep of Joshua's victories was from Halak in the country of Edom, south of the Dead Sea, to the mountains of Lebanon and Hermon in the north.
How long did this warfare last? "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." From Joshua 14:6-15, it would seem that the warfare lasted seven years before the land was at peace. Joshua was a brave leader in conquering the land, but his victories are faint pictures of the victories which Jesus gained in His years in Judea and Galilee. No doubt the warfare often to Him seemed long.
1. Where did the kings of all the northern country gather to fight with Israel? Show me the waters on the map. Who was their leader? What did these enemies have of which the children of Israel were afraid?
2. Who gained the victory? What city did they burn?
3. Some enemies in Hebron are mentioned last of all; who were they?
4. Tell me in order how the land had come into the power of Israel.
The conquest of Canaan was accomplished in two campaigns, the first giving control of the southern part of the land and the second of the northern part. This suggests a division of the land, which becomes more pronounced in the separation of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel in the days after Solomon, and in the districts of Judaea and Galilee in the New Testament. The land of Canaan represents a heavenly life which we may enjoy when many selfish and evil things in ourselves are with the Lord's help overcome. This is our conquest of Canaan. The two sections of the land represent two departments of our life. The southern part of the land represents especially childlike feelings and affections, and the northern part things of understanding and maturer life. We shall think again of this in connection with the assignment of homes to the several tribes. Do not forget the association of Bethlehem in the land of Judah with the Lord's birth and infancy, and of Galilee with His youth and maturer labors. (A. 4292, 4750; E. 4331; R. 96)
The intellectual character of the conflicts represented by the campaign of the north is emphasized by the presence of horses and chariots of war in the army of these enemies. Who can explain to us what horses and chariots represent? Animals represent affections. Animals of labor and travel, and especially horses, represent affections for the mental labor of thinking and reasoning. Chariots are artificial things that help to make the strength of the horse effective. They represent formulas of thought or principles of doctrine which help us in our reasoning. Horses and chariots fighting against Israel are the power of false reasoning defending and justifying evil. Such was the meaning of the horses and chariots in the army of Pharaoh. (Exod. 14) Horses and chariots appear again with the enemies of Israel, not with the enemies in the south, which represent affections, but with the enemies in the north, which represent false reasonings and justifications of evil. We shall think again of horses and chariots and their meaning when we learn in Judges 4 of the victory of Deborah and Barak over the horses and chariots of Sisera. (A. 5321, 8146; E. 355)
We read in verse 20 that the Lord hardened the hearts of the enemies. Of what other enemy has this been said? (Exod. 14:4, 17) See also John 12:40. Really the Lord hardens no one's heart, but His presence arouses evil people and evil spirits to oppose Him, and this results in their being cast out, that they may not hurt the good. (A. 7032)
The cutting off of the giants is the last thing mentioned in the conquest of the land. Giants in an evil sense represent pride and self-importance which considers itself strong. Probably the last lesson that we learn in conquering the heavenly Canaan is to give up the thought that we are strong and good, and to be trustful as a little child. Have you noticed that the Lord's ministry in Galilee culminates in the 18th chapter of Matthew, in the lesson of the little child and of forgiveness? Such a spiritual victory is represented by the cutting off of the giants by Joshua in completing his conquest of the land. (A. 580-583, 2909)