'Studies in the Old Testament'

God leads Israel into Canaan - 2

February 2010

(Continued from page 508)

Canaan in the time of Joshua

This was the beginning of a new era in the history of  Israel for the wilderness wanderings were behind them, Moses had died and Joshua was now responsible to lead them into the land of Canaan which God had earlier promised to Abraham's descendants. It was now over seven hundred years since He told Abraham that "the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet complete" (Genesis 15:161) and the intervening seven-century period of God's grace had only confirmed them in their iniquity. Although God is patient He is also holy and just and the time of judgment for the Canaanites had come.  Many people have a hard time reconciling the vengeance of God on the Canaanites with the loving God of the New Testament and, earlier in this century, this doubt brought about a "two-god" theory - the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. But we have discovered from the Ugarit tablets and other archaeological finds, that these people were deserving of death and extermination because of the effect they would have on the children of Israel if they were spared. The New Testament tells us that "
it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10v311). The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are One. The God of the Old Testament had given the inhabitants of Canaan seven hundred years to see the error of their ways, but they became worse and worse, and now the time had come for their destruction.

Moses my servant is dead," God announced to Joshua in chapter one, verse 21. He then gave instructions to the new leader to take the people across the Jordan, assuring them at the same time of His presence with them. Verse 51 says:

5  "No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

The criteria for success are contained in verses 7 and 81:

7  "Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.  8  "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.

Since they were on the east side of the Jordan River, preparing to invade the Cis-Jordan, Joshua spoke to Reuben and Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh reminding them of the previous agreement they had made regarding the use of their fighting forces to assist the remaining nine and one-half tribes in conquering the land. He said in verses 12-161:

12  And to the Reubenites and to the Gadites and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13  "Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, 'The LORD your God gives you rest, and will give you this land.'  14  "Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle shall remain in the land which Moses gave you beyond the Jordan, but you shall cross before your brothers in battle array, all your valiant warriors, and shall help them,  15  until the LORD gives your brothers rest, as He gives you, and they also possess the land which the LORD your God is giving them. Then you shall return to your own land, and possess that which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan toward the sunrise."  16  And they answered Joshua, saying, "All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go.
Their final remark, in verse 171, "Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you, as He was with Moses," does not fill the reader with confidence for the ensuing battles for we know, from our previous study of the Exodus, that none of the tribes actually "hearkened unto Moses" in all things and the truth is that they continually grumbled, mumbled, and rebelled!  Despite all this they were now to press ahead into Canaan.

Though the land was God's gift to Israel (Joshua 1v3-4), it could be won only by hard fighting for, in a pattern which He repeated in the New Covenant written in Christ's blood (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 26:28; Joel 2v28-29; Acts 2v17), He chose to share His supernatural power with men  - but we must play our part. The Lord gave them title to the territory but they had to possess it by marching on every part as we have to take the world through the gospel, led by His Spirit. The boundaries established by God and promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21) and Moses  (Deuteronomy 1:6-8) were to extend from the wilderness on the south to the Lebanon mountain range on the north, and from the Euphrates River on the east to the Great Sea, the Mediterranean, on the west. The added expression, "all the Hittite country," probably refers not to the extensive empire of that name north of Canaan but to the fact that in ancient times the whole population of Canaan or any part of it was sometimes called "Hittite" (cf. Genesis 15:20) and pockets of Hittite peoples existed here and there in Canaan.4

Thirty-eight vears earlier Joshua had explored .this good and fruitful land as one of the twelve spies (Numbers 13:1-16 where, in verse 8, he is called "Hoshea," a variant spelling of his name). The memory of its beauty and fertility had not dimmed and now he was to lead the armies of Israel to conquer that territory.  From personal experience he knew that the Canaanites and the other occupying peoples were vigorous people who lived in strongly fortified cities (Numbers 13v28-29) and frequent battles kept their warriors fighting fit.  For the most part the land was mountainous, a fact that would make their own war manoeuvres extremely difficult.

Joshua and his fighting men arrived in the Cis-Jordan area to find a land under the loose hegemony of Egypt.  Amenhotep III and his royal son, Amenhotep IV, were in charge of the land militarily and the land consisted of an array of city-states. We read (Joshua 12:24) that Joshua defeated thirty-one kings in all.  The strange impression this information may give to our modern minds may be corrected when we understand that just as we have mayors over cities and governors over states today, the heads of the individual city-states in Joshua's day were called kings. Although they were loosely allied to Egypt and sometimes formed alliances with each other, they were generally independent of one another. Archaeologists have discovered that the typical city-state had a substantial fortification consisting of a wall about 50-60 feet high and 50-60 feet wide and this made Joshua's army inadequately equipped for the normal warfare to be waged against such cities with siege weapons that were, up to then, outside of their experience.  But, of course, they had the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on their side!

(Continued on page 510)

'God leads Israel into Canaan!'

The Biblical use of round numbers

Canaan in the time of Joshua

Siege warfare

God shows that it was His war!

Miracle at the Jordan River

The great symbolic victory at Jericho

The Sin of Achan and its' impact on Israel

Spiritual lessons from Achan!

The result of the treaty with the Gibeonites

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