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 Deuteronomy 6:10-11 [10] And it shall be, when the LORD your God shall have brought you into the land which he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you great and goodly cities, which you built not, [11] And houses full of all good things, which you filled not, and wells dig, which you digged not, vineyards and olive trees, which you planted not; when you shall have eaten and be full;
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). 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 Deuteronomy 20:16-18 [16] But of the cities of these people, which the LORD your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes: [17] But you shall utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD your God has commanded you: [18] That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done to their gods; so should you sin against the LORD your God.
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, Joshua “left none breathing” (Joshua 11:11 Joshua 11:11And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.
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, 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 Deuteronomy 20:16But of the cities of these people, which the LORD your God does give you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes:
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), 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 Joshua 11:14-15 [14] And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey to themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. [15] As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD commanded Moses.
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).

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 2 Samuel 21:15-22 [15] Moreover the Philistines had yet war again with Israel; and David went down, and his servants with him, and fought against the Philistines: and David waxed faint. [16] And Ishbibenob, which was of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of brass in weight, he being girded with a new sword, thought to have slain David. [17] But Abishai the son of Zeruiah succored him, and smote the Philistine, and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, You shall go no more out with us to battle, that you quench not the light of Israel. [18] And it came to pass after this, that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob: then Sibbechai the Hushathite slew Saph, which was of the sons of the giant. [19] And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaareoregim, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. [20] And there was yet a battle in Gath, where was a man of great stature, that had on every hand six fingers, and on every foot six toes, four and twenty in number; and he also was born to the giant. [21] And when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimeah the brother of David slew him. [22] These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David, and by the hand of his servants.
American King James Version×
).

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