Bible Commentary: Joshua 11

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Joshua 11

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Northern Conquest 

Following the Israelite victory in the south, Jabin, the king of Hazor, north of the Sea of Galilee, forms an even larger alliance and attempts to take on Israel.

It is easy to assume that since God had commanded that Jericho be burned, and Ai too had been burned, that this was to be done to all of the cities of the land. But the instructions in Deuteronomy 20 did not include a command to burn down all of the cities. In fact, God promised to give the Israelites "large and beautiful cities which you did not build, [and] houses full of all good things, which you did not fill . . ." (Deuteronomy 6:10-11). As the inhabitants were driven out, in many cases the Israelites simply moved into their cities and houses.

In this campaign, only Hazor was burned. And as usual (Jericho excepted), the Israelites kept the spoil as God turned over the wealth of the Canaanites to Israel (verses 13-15). As we saw in Deuteronomy 20:16-18, Joshua "left none breathing" (Joshua 11:11, 14) of the inhabitants of these cities that were near to them. But it is also clear from these passages that letting "nothing that breathes remain alive" (Deuteronomy 20:16), which was done to avoid being taught "their abominations which they have done for their gods" (verse 18), applied only to human beings, not to the livestock, which Israel was permitted to keep as part of the spoils (Joshua 11:14-15).

During the process of conquering the land, the giants that had been such a terror to the Israelites 40 years earlier were killed or driven off (verses 21-22; 15:14). A few remained in the area occupied by the Philistines, the descendants of whom David and his men encountered several hundred years later (1 Samuel 17; 2 Samuel 21:15-22).