Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The Kings of Hazor, Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph, with those of the mountains, plains, etc., and various chiefs of the Canaanites and Amorites, confederate against Israel, Jos 11:1-3. They pitch their tents at the waters of Merom, Jos 11:4, Jos 11:5. The Lord encourages Joshua, Jos 11:6. He attacks and discomfits them, Jos 11:7, Jos 11:8. Houghs all their horses, and burns all their chariots, Jos 11:9. Takes and burns several of their cities, Jos 11:10-13. The Israelites take the spoils, Jos 11:14, Jos 11:15. An account of the country taken by Joshua, Jos 11:16-18. The Gibeonites only make peace with Israel, Jos 11:19. All the rest resist and are overcome, Jos 11:20. Joshua cuts off the Anakim, Jos 11:21, Jos 11:22. The conquered lands are given to Israel, and the war is concluded, Jos 11:23.
Jabin king of Hazor - It is probable that Jabin was the common name of all the kings of Hazor. That king, by whom the Israelites were kept in a state of slavery for twenty years, and who was defeated by Deborah and Barak, was called by this name; see Jdg 4:2, Jdg 4:3, Jdg 4:23. The name signifies wise or intelligent. The city of Hazor was situated above the Lake Semechon, in Upper Galilee, according to Josephus, Antiq. lib. v., c. 6. It was given to the tribe of Naphtali, Jos 19:36, who it appears did not possess it long; for though it was burnt by Joshua, Jos 11:11, it is likely that the Canaanites rebuilt it, and restored the ancient government, as we find a powerful king there about one hundred and thirty years after the death of Joshua, Jdg 4:1. It is the same that was taken by Tiglath-pileser, together with Kadesh, to which it is contiguous; see Kg2 15:29. It is supposed to have given name to the Valley or Plain of Hazor or Nasor, situated between it and Kadesh, where Jonathan and Mattathias defeated the armies of Demetrius, and slew three thousand of their men, 1 Maccabees 11:63-74. It was in ancient times the metropolitan city of all that district, and a number of petty kings or chieftains were subject to its king, see Jos 11:10; and it is likely that it was those tributary kings who were summoned to attend the king of Hazor on this occasion; for Joshua having conquered the southern part of the promised land, the northern parts seeing themselves exposed made now a common interest, and, joining with Jabin, endeavored to put a stop to the progress of the Israelites. See Calmet
Jobab king of Madon - This royal city is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture except in Jos 12:19. The Vatican copy of the Septuagint reads Μαρων, Maron, which, if legitimate, Calmet thinks may mean Maronia or Merath in Phoenicia, to the north of Mount Libanus. The Hebrew text reads מרון Meron, Jos 12:20, after Shimron, which is probably the same with מדון Madon, Jos 11:19, the word having casually dropped out of the preceding place into the latter, and the ר resh and ד daleth being interchanged, which might have easily happened from the great similarity of the letters. Hence Calmet conjectures that it may be the same place with מרוז Meroz, Jdg 5:23, the ז zain and final ן nun being interchanged, which they might easily, as they are so very similar.
King of Shimron - This city is supposed to be the same with Symira, in Coelosyria, joined to Maron or Marath, by Pliny and Pomponius Mela. It cannot be Samaria, as that had its name long after by Omri king of Israel. See Kg1 16:24.
King of Achshaph - Calmet supposes this to have been the city of Ecdippe, mentioned by Pliny, Ptolemy, Josephus, and Eusebius. The latter places it within ten miles of Ptolemais, on the road to Tyre. It fell to the tribe of Asher. See Jos 19:26.
On the north of the mountains - Or the mountain, probably Hermon, or some mountain not far from the lake of Gennesareth.
And of the plains - That is, the valleys of the above mountains, which had the sea of Chinneroth or Gennesareth on the south.
Chinneroth - This city is supposed by St. Jerome and several others since his time, to be the same as was afterwards called Tiberias. From this city or village the sea of Chinneroth or Gennesareth probably had its name.
And in the borders of Dor - Calmet supposes this to mean the champaign country of the higher and lower Galilee, on to the Mediterranean Sea, and to the village or city of Dor, which was the farthermost city of Phoenicia. Dor was in the lot of the half tribe of Manasseh, and was situated on the Mediterranean Sea, three leagues from Caesarea, and seven from Ptolemais.
The Canaanite on the east, etc. - Those who dwelt on the borders of Jordan, south of the sea of Tiberias.
On the west - Those were the Phoenicians who dwelt on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from Dor northwards, on the way to Mount Libanus. - Calmet.
The Hivite under Hermon - Mount Hermon was to the east of Libanus and the fountains of Jordan; it is the same with Syrion and Baal Hermon in Scripture.
The land of Mizpeh - There were several cities of this name: one in the tribe of Judah, (Jos 15:38); a second in the tribe of Benjamin, (Jos 18:26); a third beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad; and a fourth beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Manasseh, which is that mentioned in the text. See Wells's Geography. Calmet supposes this Mizpeh to be the place where Laban and Jacob made their covenant, and from which circumstance it took its name. See Gen 31:48, Gen 31:49.
Much people, even as the sand - This form of speech, by some called a hyperbole, conveys simply the idea of a vast or unusual number - a number of which no regular estimate could be easily formed. Josephus, who seldom finds difficulties in such cases, and makes no scruple of often speaking without book, tells us that the allied armies amounted to 300,000 foot 10,000 horse, and 20,000 chariots of war. Antiq. lib. v., c. 1. That chariots were frequently used in war, all the records of antiquity prove; but it is generally supposed that among the Canaanites they were armed with iron scythes fastened to their poles and to the naves of their wheels. Terrible things are spoken of these, and the havoc made by them when furiously driven among the ranks of infantry. Of what sort the cavalry was, we know not; but from the account here given we may see what great advantages these allies possessed over the Israelites, whose armies consisted of infantry only.
The waters of Merom - Where these waters were, interpreters are not agreed. Whether they were the waters of the Lake Semechon, or the waters of Megiddo, mentioned Jdg 5:19, cannot be easily determined. The latter is the more probable opinion.
Be not afraid - of them - To meet such a formidable host so well equipped, in their own country, furnished with all that was necessary to supply a numerous army, required more than ordinary encouragement in Joshua's circumstances. This communication from God was highly necessary, in order to prevent the people from desponding on the eve of a conflict, in which their all was at stake.
By the waters of Merom suddenly - Joshua, being apprised of this grand confederation, lost no time, but marched to meet them; and before they could have supposed him at hand, fell suddenly upon them, and put them to the rout.
Great Zidon - If this were the same with the Sidon of the ancients, it was illustrious long before the Trojan war; and both it and its inhabitants are frequently mentioned by Homer as excelling in works of skill and utility, and abounding in wealth: -
Ενθ' εσαν οἱ πεπλοι παμποικιλοι, εογα γυναικων
Iliad, lib. vi., ver. 289.
"There lay the ventures of no vulgar art,
Sidonian maids embroidered every part."
Αργυρεον κρητηρα τετυγμενον· ἑξ δ' αρα μετρα
Χανδανεν, αυταρ καλλει ενικα πασαν επ' αιαν
Πολλον, επι Σιδονες πολυδαιδαλοι ευ ησκησαν.
Iliad, lib. xxiii., ver. 741.
"A silver urn that full six measures held,
By none in weight or workmanship excell'd;
Sidonian artists taught the frame to shine,
Elaborate with artifice divine."
Εκ μεν Σιδωνος πολυχαλκου ευχομαι ειναι.
Odyss. xv. 424.
"I am of Sidon, famous for her wealth."
The art of making glass is attributed by Pliny to this city: Sidon artifex vitri, Hist. Nat. l. v., c. 19.
Misrephoth-maim - Or, Misrephoth of the waters. What this place was is unknown, but Calmet conjectures it to be the same with Sarepta, a city of Phoenicia, contiguous to Sidon. The word signifies the burning of the waters, or inflammation; probably it was a place noted for its hot springs: this idea seems to have struck Luther, as he translates it, die warme wasser, the hot waters.
He houghed their horses - The Hebrew word עקר akar, which we render to hough or hamstring, signifies to wound, cut, or lop off. It is very likely that it means here, not only an act by which they were rendered useless, but by which they were destroyed; as God had purposed that his people should not possess any cattle of this kind, that a warlike and enterprising spirit might not be cultivated among them; and that, when obliged to defend themselves and their country, they might be led to depend upon God for protection and victory. On the same ground, God had forbidden the kings of Israel to multiply horses, Deu 17:16 (note). See the note there containing the reasons on which this prohibition was founded.
Burnt their chariots - As these could have been of no use without the horses.
Took Hazor - See on Jos 11:1 (note).
The cities that stood still in their strength - The word תלם tillam, which we translate their strength, and the margin, their heap, has been understood two ways.
1. As signifying those cities which had made peace with the Israelites, when conditions of peace were offered according to the command of the law; and consequently were not destroyed. Such as the cities of the Hivites; see Jos 11:19.
2. The cities which were situated upon hills and mountains, which, when taken, might be retained with little difficulty. In this sense the place is understood by the Vulgate, as pointing out the cities quae erant in collibus et tumulis sitae, "which were situated on hills and eminences." As the cities of the plain might be easily attacked and carried, Joshua destroyed them; but as those on mountains, hills, or other eminences, might be retained with little trouble, prudence would dictate their preservation, as places of refuge in any insurrection of the people, or invasion of their adversaries. The passage in Jeremiah, Jer 30:18, Jerusalem shall be builded on her own heap, תלה tillah, if understood as above, conveys an easy and clear sense: Jerusalem shall be re-established on her Own Hill.
All the spoil of these cities - Israel took - With the exception of those things which had been employed for idolatrous purposes; see Deu 7:25.
The mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same - This place has given considerable trouble to commentators; and it is not easy to assign such a meaning to the place as may appear in all respects satisfactory.
1. If we consider this verse and the 21st to have been added after the times in which the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were divided, the difficulty is at once removed.
2. The difficulty will be removed if we consider that mountain and valley are put here for mountains and valleys, and that these include all mountains and valleys which were not in the lot that fell to the tribe of Judah. Or,
3. If by mountain of Israel we understand Beth-el, where God appeared to Jacob, afterwards called Israel, and promised him the land of Canaan, a part of the difficulty will be removed. But the first opinion seems best founded; for there is incontestable evidence that several notes have been added to this book since the days of Joshua. See the preface.
From the mount Halak - All the mountainous country that extends from the south of the land of Canaan towards Seir unto Baal-gad, which lies at the foot of Mount Libanus or Hermon, called by some the mountains of Separation, which serve as a limit between the land of Canaan and that of Seir; see Jos 12:7.
The valley of Lebanon - The whole extent of the plain which is on the south, and probably north, of Mount Libanus. Calmet conjectures that Coelesyria is here meant.
Joshua made war a long time - The whole of these conquests were not effected in one campaign: they probably required six or seven years. There are some chronological notices in this book, and in Deuteronomy, by which the exact time may be nearly ascertained. Caleb was forty years old when he was sent from Kadesh-barnea by Moses to search out the land, about A.M. 2514; and at the end of this war he was eighty-five years old; (compare Jos 14:10 with Numbers 13, and Deuteronomy 1); consequently the war ended in 2559, which had begun, by the passage of Jordan, on the tenth day of the first month of the year 2554. From this date to the end of 2559 we find exactly six years; the first of which Joshua seems to have employed in the conquest of the south part of the land of Canaan, and the other five in the conquest of all the territories situated on the north of that country. See Dodd. Calmet computes this differently, and allows the term of seven years for the conquest of the whole land. "Caleb was forty years old when sent from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land. At the conclusion of the war he was eighty-five years old, as himself says, Jos 14:10. From this sum of eighty-five subtract forty, his age when he went from Kadesh-barnea, and the thirty-eight years which he spent in the wilderness after his return, and there will remain the sum of seven years, which was the time spent in the conquest of the land."
1. By protracting the war the Canaanites had time to repent, having sufficient opportunity to discern the hand of Jehovah.
2. Agriculture was carried on, and thus provision was made even for the support of the conquerors, for had the land been subdued and wasted at once, tillage must have stopped, and famine would have ensued.
3. Wild beasts would have multiplied upon them, and the land have been desolated by their means.
4. Had these conquests been more rapid the people of Israel would have been less affected, and less instructed by miracles that had passed in such quick succession before their eyes; and, as in this case they would have obtained the dominion with comparatively little exertion, they might have felt themselves less interested in the preservation of an inheritance, to obtain which they had been but at little trouble and little expense.
What we labor under the Divine blessing to acquire we are careful to retain; but what comes lightly generally goes lightly. God obliged them to put forth their own strength in this work, and only blessed and prospered them while they were workers together with him. See the note on Jos 13:6.
It was of the Lord to harden their hearts - They had sinned against all the light they had received, and God left them justly to the hardness, obstinacy, and pride of their own hearts; for as they chose to retain their idolatry, God was determined that they should be cut off. For as no city made peace with the Israelites but Gibeon and some others of the Hivites, Jos 11:19, it became therefore necessary to destroy them; for their refusal to make peace was the proof that they wilfully persisted in their idolatry.
Cut off the Anakims - from Hebron, from Debir - This is evidently a recapitulation of the military operations detailed Jos 10:36-41.
Destroyed - their cities - That is, those of the Anakims; for from Jos 11:13 we learn that Joshua preserved certain other cities.
In Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod - The whole race of the Anakims was extirpated in this war, except those who had taken refuge in the above cities, which belonged to the Philistines; and in which some of the descendants of Anak were found even in the days of David.
So Joshua took the whole land - All the country described here and in the preceding chapter. Besides the multitudes that perished in this war, many of the Canaanites took refuge in the confines of the land, and in the neighboring nations. Some suppose that a party of these fugitive Canaanites made themselves masters of Lower Egypt, and founded a dynasty there known by the name of the shepherd kings; but it is more probable that the shepherds occupied Egypt long before the time that Jacob went thither to sojourn. It is said they founded Tingris or Tangier, where, according to Procopius, they erected two white pillars with an inscription in the Phoenician language, of which this is the translation: We Are the Persons Who Have Fled from the Face of Joshua the Plunderer, the Son of Nave or Nun. See Bochart, Phaleg and Canaan, lib. i., c. xxiv., col. 476. Many, no doubt, settled in different parts of Africa, in Asia Minor, in Greece, and in the different islands of the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea: it is supposed also that colonies of this people were spread over different parts of Germany and Sclavonia, etc., but their descendants are now so confounded with the nations of the earth, as no longer to retain their original names, or to be discernible.
And Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel - He claimed no peculiar jurisdiction over it; his own family had no peculiar share of it, and himself only the ruined city of Timnath-serah, in the tribe of Ephraim, which he was obliged to rebuild. See Jos 19:49, Jos 19:50, and see his character at the end of the book, Jos 24:33 (note).
And the land rested from war - The whole territory being now conquered, which God designed the Israelites should possess at this time. According to the apostle, Heb 4:8, etc., Joshua himself was a type of Christ; the promised land, of the kingdom of heaven, the victories which he gained, of the victory and triumph of Christ; and the rest he procured for Israel, of the state of blessedness, at the right hand of God. In this light we should view the whole history, in order to derive those advantages from it which, as a portion of the revelation of God, it was intended to convey. Those who finally reign with Christ are they who, through his grace, conquer the world, the devil, and the flesh; for it is only of those who thus overcome that he says, "They shall sit with me on my throne, as I have overcome, and am set down with the Father on the Father's throne;" Rev 3:21. Reader, art thou a conqueror?