As they fled before Israel along the descent from Beth-horon to Azekah, the LORD cast down on them large hailstones from the sky, and more of them were killed by the hailstones than by the swords of the Israelites.
What combinations have been formed, what artifices practised against the Church! — one wile to allure, another to frighten, and sometimes to destroy. As against the Lord Himself, so against His people, the great and the mighty of the earth have consulted their ruin, and for a season availed to harass and distress the saints; nor can this be matter of surprise to those who know their own character, and remember what themselves were till converted by the grace of God. The Church's gain is the world's grief, as it is the world's loss. Oh, what oppositions in families, what combinations out of old connections and associates, have been raised against those who, no longer of the world, have been chosen out of it, and through grace enabled to turn their backs upon its vanities and pursuits! No sooner is it known that any have made peace with our spiritual Joshua than the world is up in arms, and war declared, lasting as the irreconcilable enmity of fallen nature. Not one who openly declares himself on the Lord's side, and is inwardly devoted to His glory, but, according to the station he occupies, and the influence of those around him, will experience a full measure.
It may seem as if there was too much carnage about this account for Scripture purposes. Yet it is well to dwell on it. Dean Stanley treats this battle as the Marathon of the religious history of the world. It was the crisis in which the hosts who were, unconsciously to some extent, fighting for truth, righteousness, progress, and liberty, met with those fighting, to some extent unconsciously, for a depraved religion, licentious morals, for retrogression and decay. Like the siege of Leyden, or the defeat of the Armada, such a battle means far more than is obvious on the surface. The sacred cause of man is involved in it. And it is worth our while, to linger over some of its lessons. Mark at least these.
I. GOD USES OUR EFFORT TO FULFIL HIS PROMISES, Israel was apt, perhaps, to expect the possession of the land to come too easily. Jericho was got by a miracle, Ai by stratagem, Gibeon by submission; and perhaps the ease of these successes led them to dream dreams of gaining the whole land without an effort. But all the steps of progress are not to be so easy. Miracles come only where weakness needs them. In the degree in which they develop vigour and self reliance, the miraculous element in their experience will grow less. Always sufficient - there will never be more help of God than is needed. And so with the confidence and vigour developed by their successes, comes greater strain upon their powers. The nations of southern Canaan gather together to oppose their progress: to gain possession of that Gibeon which commands the entrance by the pass of Beth-horon to the land. And at once "foemen worthy of their steel" confront them. God will fulfil His promise to give them the land of Canaan; but He will employ their effort and their prowess to realise the fulfilment of His promise. And to some extent by their efforts is His promise fulfilled. Such is all life. It is the heir of promises which, however, require our effort for their fulfilment.
(a) For instance: Truth is a land of promise. Only when God gives can we get it. "The Spirit of truth" alone can impart it. It is a land flowing with milk and honey - the home of God's elect. But though thus a land of God's promises, and in a special sense His gift, it comes not to the inert or the supine - to the critics that are at ease in Zion. It comes to the fighters only. When we face bravely all lies, strive fearlessly to see and grasp and own the truth, get lodgment for it in the heart by obeying it, strive against doubts that rise within us, and fears disabling us, then do we gain "the promised possession."
(b) Salvation is God's promise, and a Divine gift in all its elements. Obviously it is beyond our power to compass it. Only the God that made us can mend us. And atonement, grace, repentance, faith, perseverance to the end, are all God's gift. But there is the battle of Beth-horon at the outset of every Christian life, and many a conflict afterwards, a strait gate to begin with, and a narrow way to follow. And if we do not make the effort and fight for the attainment of what we desire, we shall not find it.
(c) Character is another Canaan. A thing of promise, but only reached by effort. Daily deeds of self denial lead to it; and daffy conflicts with doubts and disinclinations.
(d) Usefulness is, perhaps, the grandest of all God's promises. It is that in which we most resemble God. Its joys are the likest of any to those of the everlasting home. It comes not to the dreamer, but to the fighter. The abolition of slavery was a fight. Mary Carpenter's triumph in getting a place for Ragged Schools, Industrial Schools, and Reformatories in English legislation, required thirty years of effort. When the Church faces the abounding drunkenness of the land, she will find God will help her to destroy it, but that His help will be conditioned on a tremendous effort. Do not believe in salvation made easy. It is always simple, it is never easy. The possession of every Canaan is a Divine promise, and needs Divine power; but one of the conditions of its fulfilment is the forth putting of human effort. Take a second lesson.
II. THE HEARTIER THE EFFORT IS, THE MORE SURELY AND EASILY SUCCESS WILL COME. Joshua saw the need for action, had God's guidance in it, and then with an energy which had something Napoleonic in it, threw himself into his task. Was Gibeon threatened? within a few hours of his knowing it, Israel is on the march. Doubtless there were counsellors advising caution, consideration, and delay. Joshua had gathered the wisdom, but not the weakness, of old age, and knew the value of energy. That night the host is marshalled for its uphill, moonlit march over the fifteen or eighteen miles of valley intervening between them and Gilgal. And before the five kings have any thought of his approach, he rushes "like a torrent" on the foe. And such is the energy, the surprise of that charge, that, martial as are the habits of the enemy, they are obliged to yield. Apparently a long fight takes place, the enemy disputing every inch of ground so long as the gradual rising to the Upper Beth-horon gives them the advantage. But the sun stands still over Gibeon to let them finish the fight; and then a headlong flight down to Lower Beth-boron, and then to the valley of Ajalon and the plains that skirt the Mediterranean, subjects them to terrible destruction. A great hailstorm breaks on the fugitive masses, not extending far enough eastward to affect Israel. And the moon stands over the valley of Ajalon after the sun has set, to let them finish their pursuit and complete their victory. It is as fine an instance of the value of decision, of energy, of heartiness in our work as the whole Bible gives. "What thy hand finds to do, do it with thy might." The impact of any projectile is in the ratio of its mass, multiplied by its velocity. And a thing of slight mass, but of high velocity, will be more effective than one of much greater mass, whose velocity is sluggish. So is it in the world of morals. Weight multiplied by momentum measures the power. Most of us are inefficient, because, while weighty enough, we have little or no momentum. We languidly pursue the good, and half-heartedly oppose the evil. Unlike St. Paul, it is not one thing, but twenty-one, that we do. In everything decision and heartiness is needed, but in religion it is indispensable. Be cold or hot, not lukewarm. If the gospel be true, it is tremendously true; if a dream, ignore it altogether. Half-hearted fighting prolongs the contest, invites defeat, loses the benefits of victory. In march, attack, pursuit, we have an example of the supreme advantage of doing heartily whatever has to be done by us. Take a third lesson.
III. THE GOOD FIGHT, WHEN WELL FOUGHT, ALWAYS ENDS IN VICTORY. It might have seemed a very dubious affair, this war with the nations of Canaan. The Canaanites were the English of that period: the nation leading the world in maritime enterprise and daring, and wealthy and strong in their successful commerce. Israel had been for generations in slavery, debased and weakened by servitude. But against these odds on the side of Canaan there were some things to be set.
1. Immorality is destructive of courage. Paganism, with its debasements, destroyed self respect and that interest in life, home, and liberty which is the soul of patriotism. For heroism religion is an essential element. Cromwell's Ironsides, Nelson's Methodists, Havelock's regiment of Teetotallers, the rower of resistance to oppression developed by religion in Holland and in Scotland, show how immediate and direct is the influence of godliness in vitalising all the manlier virtues. Corruption of character followed corruption of creed, and was followed by deterioration of courage.
2. The enemy of the good has never Divine guidance. These nations were badly advised. Their true policy was a defensive one. Within their ramparts the labour of conquering them would have been terrific and inevitably slow. All uniting, in the open they lose the advantage of their cities "walled up to heaven," and a single disaster is a fatal one. "A good understanding have they that love God's law;" and all others unwatchful in presumption, or feverish in solicitude, lack wisdom which they Deed.
3. And God fights on behalf of those who fight for Him. The long day, the moonlight night, the destructive hail, are all Divine, however we may abate the miraculous significance of the poetic history. And they who aim at any form of good find a secret providence furthering their enterprise: many influences cooperating with them, strange providential openings, a Divine backing which, all uniting, make it that, however weak they may be, they are more than conquerors through Christ that loved them. "Wherefore take to yourselves the whole armour of God," and FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH. - G.
Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua.
The greatest poet of Greece has sung in stately numbers the deeds of heroes whom his race adored. We listen to their counsels, we hear their battle shouts, we see their awful blows. Yet after all this plain, unvarnished tale depicts with more fidelity and power the progress and results of a conflict, the most sublime in its accompaniments that this earth has ever seen. In this chapter we have recorded not only one of Joshua's most brilliant victories, but one of the world's greatest battles: a struggle surpassing in importance and interest Issus or Arbela, Marathon or Cannae, and affecting to an incalculable extent the religious and political, the moral and the material, welfare of mankind. First of all we listen to the summons — "Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon," &c. Notice from whom the summons comes. From Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem. This is a strange thing. From this man's name, Lord of Righteousness, and from his heritage, Jerusalem, we would have expected something very different. He is certainly the successor, probably the descendant, of Melchizedek. Here is a man who bears the best of titles, but is, alas! unworthy of it. Nothing could be better than his name; few things are worse than his fame. Learn from this sad lesson that piety is not hereditary. The descendants of the righteous may be a wicked seed. This is a sad thing. A noble ancestry is not a thing to be despised. It is unwise and ungrateful to ignore the records and the glories of the past. This is also a dangerous thing. The opposition of those who have thus fallen is always most dangerous. None are so bitter and remorseless, so vehement and virulent, so venomous and subtle, as renegades. Notice to whom Adoni-zedek's message was sent. It was not sent to all the members of the great national league. That was impossible, because the submission of the Gibeonites had split the confederacy into two unequal parts. Instead of one vast army marching to crush the invader there must now be two: one in the south, the other in the north. That of the south is smaller, therefore more easily set in motion; and it is also placed nearer the centre of attack. Thus we see how God has restrained the wrath of the enemy and deprived him of half his might. Even so all coalition against Him must fall to pieces. Transgressors are always lacking in cohesion. It was to Gibeon that Adoni-zedek summoned his confederates. Thus his enmity was manifested against their defection. Still this summons of Adoni-zedek betokens fear. It is to some extent the blustering of a bully who is at heart a craven. We know this, for we are told that "When Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it... that they feared greatly." Therefore because they fear they do not come alone. They keep their courage up by company. How many are like them. They do fear when spiritual truths are brought before them, when God's judgment stares them in the face; yet they try to find comfort in the thought, "Well, if I am lost a great many will be badly off." Nay! nay! It is a vain thing to banish fear by such thoughts. Such a fear as that works destruction; because being accompanied, by a rebellious heart and a darkened mind it led to union against God. Hatred against the Gibeonites is a very distinct characteristic of Adoni-zedek's message. Yet, after all, what right had they to be thus angry with their old friends? Had not the Gibeonites a right to have a mind of their own, especially in a matter that concerned their very existence? But the human heart remains the same. When the sinner turns from his rebellion and humbles himself before God, then is the time for the wrath of man to be revealed. This hatred is most unreasonable, for, like these Gibeonites, the penitents in throwing down the weapons of their rebellion set an example which it is the highest wisdom to follow. The cunning and the impiety of these Canaanites are also revealed by this confederation. They will prevent further defection; they will gain one of the most important strongholds in the land; they will make the old league possible. Thus they displayed their craft. And in doing so they proved their impiety.
It is thus in the spiritual life. Upon no outer enemy does the world turn with such rage and resentment as upon those who desert their ranks to join the Lord's host. All the legions of hell are marshalled forth against the young believer who has newly signed the terms of treaty with the Joshua of the better covenant. As Bishop Hall says, "If a convert come home, the angels welcome him with song, the devils follow him with uproar and fury, his old partners with scorn and obloquy." In spite of all this, let not those who have become allied to the Israel of God quail; but let the sequel here before us reassure them.
PeopleAdonizedec, Amorites, Debir, Eglon, Gibeon, Hoham, Horam, Israelites, Japhia, Jasher, Joshua, Piram
PlacesAi, Azekah, Beth-horon, Debir, Eglon, Gaza, Gezer, Gibeon, Gilgal, Hebron, Jarmuth, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kadesh-barnea, Lachish, Libnah, Makkedah, Negeb, Valley of Aijalon
TopicsAzekah, Beth, Cast, Descent, Died, Fled, Hailstones, Horon, Hurled, Israelites, Killed, Large, Road, Sky, Stones, Swords
Outline1. Five kings war against Gibeon
6. Joshua rescues it
10. God fights against them with hailstones
12. The sun and moon stand still at the word of Joshua
16. The five kings are murdered in a cave
22. They are brought forth
24. scornfully used
26. and hanged
28. Seven kings more are conquered
43. Joshua returns to Gilgal
Dictionary of Bible ThemesJoshua 10:11
4855 weather, God's judgment
5608 warfare, strategies
LibraryFive Kings in a Cave
TEXT: "And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the Lord do to all your enemies against whom ye fight."--Joshua 10:24-25. The history of the …
J. Wilbur Chapman—And Judas Iscariot
Praying Saints of the Old Testaments
The Holy Spirit will give to the praying saint the brightness of an immortal hope, the music of a deathless song, in His baptism and communion with the heart, He will give sweeter and more enlarged visions of heaven until the taste for other things will pall, and other visions will grow dim and distant. He will put notes of other worlds in human hearts until all earth's music is discord and songless.--Rev. E. M. Bounds Old Testament history is filled with accounts of praying saints. The leaders of …
Edward M. Bounds—Prayer and Praying Men
Gibeon. Josh 10:06
John Newton—Olney Hymns
The Northern Coast of Judea. Beth-Horon.
This coast is marked out Joshua 18:12; where, at verse 14, are very many versions to be corrected, which render the sea; such are, the Syriac, the Seventy, the Vulgar, the Italian, ours, &c.: whence ariseth a sense of insuperable difficulty to a chorographical eye: when it should, indeed, be rendered of the west, as the Chaldee, Arabic, R. Solomon, &c. rightly do. We read of a double Beth-horon in the Old Testament, but one only under the second Temple... At that place that great Canaanitish army …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Subterraneous Places. Mines. Caves.
Thus having taken some notice of the superficies of the land, let us a little search into its bowels. You may divide the subterraneous country into three parts: the metal mines, the caves, and the places of burial. This land was eminently noted for metal mines, so that "its stones," in very many places, "were iron, and out of its hills was digged brass," Deuteronomy 8:9. From these gain accrued to the Jews: but to the Christians, not seldom slavery and misery; being frequently condemned hither by …
John Lightfoot—From the Talmud and Hebraica
Sign Seekers, and the Enthusiast Reproved.
(Galilee on the Same Day as the Last Section.) ^A Matt. XII. 38-45; ^C Luke XI. 24-36. ^c 29 And when the multitudes were gathering together unto him, ^a 38 Then certain of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, Teacher, we would see a sign from thee. [Having been severely rebuked by Jesus, it is likely that the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign that they might appear to the multitude more fair-minded and open to conviction than Jesus had represented them to be. Jesus had just wrought …
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel
Subjects of Study. Home Education in Israel; Female Education. Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.
If a faithful picture of society in ancient Greece or Rome were to be presented to view, it is not easy to believe that even they who now most oppose the Bible could wish their aims success. For this, at any rate, may be asserted, without fear of gainsaying, that no other religion than that of the Bible has proved competent to control an advanced, or even an advancing, state of civilisation. Every other bound has been successively passed and submerged by the rising tide; how deep only the student …
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life
The Hebrews and the Philistines --Damascus
THE ISRAELITES IN THE LAND OF CANAAN: THE JUDGES--THE PHILISTINES AND THE HEBREW KINGDOM--SAUL, DAVID, SOLOMON, THE DEFECTION OF THE TEN TRIBES--THE XXIst EGYPTIAN DYNASTY--SHESHONQ OR SHISHAK DAMASCUS. The Hebrews in the desert: their families, clans, and tribes--The Amorites and the Hebrews on the left bank of the Jordan--The conquest of Canaan and the native reaction against the Hebrews--The judges, Ehud, Deborah, Jerubbaal or Gideon and the Manassite supremacy; Abimelech, Jephihdh. The Philistines, …
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 6
Meditations of the True Manner of Practising Piety on the Sabbath-Day.
Almighty God will have himself worshipped, not only in a private manner by private persons and families, but also in a more public sort, of all the godly joined together in a visible church; that by this means he may be known not only to be the God and Lord of every Singular person, but also of the creatures of the whole universal world. Question--But why do not we Christians under the New, keep the Sabbath on the same seventh day on which it was kept under the Old Testament? I answer--Because our …
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety
Divine Support and Protection
[What shall we say then to these things?] If God be for us, who can be against us? T he passions of joy or grief, of admiration or gratitude, are moderate when we are able to find words which fully describe their emotions. When they rise very high, language is too faint to express them; and the person is either lost in silence, or feels something which, after his most laboured efforts, is too big for utterance. We may often observe the Apostle Paul under this difficulty, when attempting to excite …
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 2
The book of Joshua is the natural complement of the Pentateuch. Moses is dead, but the people are on the verge of the promised land, and the story of early Israel would be incomplete, did it not record the conquest of that land and her establishment upon it. The divine purpose moves restlessly on, until it is accomplished; so "after the death of Moses, Jehovah spake to Joshua," i. 1. The book falls naturally into three divisions: (a) the conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (b) the settlement of the …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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