Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The War in Northern Canaan. - Jos 11:1-3. On receiving intelligence of what had occurred in the south, the king of Hazor formed an alliance with the kings of Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph, and other kings of the north, to make a common attack upon the Israelites. This league originated with Jabin the king of Hazor, because Hazor was formerly the head of all the kingdoms of northern Canaan (Jos 11:10). Hazor, which Joshua conquered and burned to the ground (Jos 11:10, Jos 11:11), was afterwards restored, and became a capital again (Jdg 4:2; Sa1 12:9); it was fortified by Solomon (Kg1 9:15), and taken by Tiglath-Pileser (Kg2 15:29). It belonged to the tribe of Naphtali (Jos 19:36), but has not yet been discovered. According to Josephus (Ant. v. 5, 1), it was above the Lake of Samochonitis, the present Bahr el Huleh. Robinson conjectures that it is to be found in the ruins upon Tell Khuraibeh, opposite to the north-west corner of the lake of Huleh, the situation of which would suit Hazor quite well, as it is placed between Ramah and Kedesh in Jos 19:35-36 (see Bibl. Res. p. 364). On the other hand, the present ruins of Huzzur or Hazireh, where there are the remains of large buildings of a very remote antiquity (see Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 62), with which Knobel identifies Hazor, cannot be thought of for a moment, as these ruins, which are about an hour and a quarter to the south-west of Yathir, are so close to the Ramah of Asher (Jos 19:29) that Hazor must also have belonged to Asher, and could not possibly have been included in the territory of Naphtali. There would be more reason for thinking of Tell Hazr or Khirbet Hazr, on the south-west of Szafed (see Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 81); but these ruins are not very ancient, and only belong to an ordinary village, and not to a town at all. Madon is only mentioned again in Jos 12:19, and its situation is quite unknown. Shimron, called Shimron-meron in Jos 12:20, was allotted to the tribe of Zebulun (Jos 19:15), and is also unknown. For Meron cannot be connected, as Knobel supposes, with the village and ruins of Marn, not far from Kedesh, on the south-west (see Rob. Pal. iii. p. 371), or Shimron with the ruins of Khuraibeh, an hour to the south of Kedesh; as the territory of Zebulun, to which Shimron belonged, did not reach so far north, and there is not the slightest ground for assuming that there were two Shimrons, or for making a distinction between the royal seat mentioned here and the Shimron of Zebulun. There is also no probability in Knobel's conjecture, that the Shimron last named is the same as the small village of Semunieh, probably the Simonias of Josephus (Vita, 24), on the west of Nazareth (see Rob. Pal. iii. p. 201). Achshaph, a border town of Ashwer (Jos 19:25), is also unknown, and is neither to be sought, as Robinson supposes (Bibl. Res. pp. 55), in the ruins of Kesf, which lie even farther north than Abel (Abil), in the tribe of Naphtali, and therefore much too far to the north to have formed the boundary of Asher; nor to be identified with Acco (Ptolemais), as Knobel imagines, since Acco has nothing in common with Achshaph except the letter caph (see also at Jos 19:25).
Jabin also allied himself with the kings of the north "upon the mountains," i.e., the mountains of Naphtali (Jos 20:7), and "in the Arabah to the south of Chinnereth" (Jos 19:35), i.e., in the Ghor to the south of the sea of Galilee, and "in the lowland," i.e., the northern portion of it, as far down as Joppa, and "upon the heights of Dor." The town of Dor, which was built by Phoenicians, who settled there on account of the abundance of the purple mussels (Steph. Byz. s. v. Δῶρος), was allotted to the Manassites in the territory of Asher (Jos 17:11; cf. Jos 19:26), and taken possession of by the children of Joseph (Ch1 7:29). It was situated on the Mediterranean Sea, below the promontory of Carmel, nine Roman miles north of Caesarea, and is at the present time a hamlet called Tantura or Tortura, with very considerable ruins (Wilson, The Holy Land, ii. 249, and V. de Velde, Journey, i. p. 251). The old town was a little more than a mile to the north, on a small range of hills, which is covered with ruins (Ritter, Erdk. xvi. pp. 608-9; V. de Velde, Mem. p. 307), and on the north of which there are rocky ranges, with many grottos, and houses cut in the rock itself (Buckingham, Syria, i. pp. 101-2). These are "the heights of Dor," or "the high range of Dor" (Jos 12:23; Kg1 4:11).
"Namely, with the Canaanites on the east and west, the Amorites" and other tribes dwelling upon the mountains (vid., Jos 3:10), and "the Hivites under the Hermon in the land of Mizpah," i.e., the country below Hasbeya, between Nahr Hasbany on the east, and Merj. Ayn on the west, with the village of Mutulleh or Mtelleh, at present inhabited by Druses, which stands upon a hill more than 200 feet high, and from which there is a splendid prospect over the Huleh basin. It is from this that it has derived its name, which signifies prospect, specula, answering to the Hebrew Mizpah (see Robinson, Bibl. Res. p. 372).
These came out with their armies, a people as numerous as the sand by the sea-shore (vid., Gen 22:17, etc.), and very many horses and chariots. All these kings agreed together, sc., concerning the war and the place of battle, and encamped at Merom to fight against Israel. The name Merom (Meirm in the Arabic version) answers to Meirm, a village whose name is also pronounced Meirm, a celebrated place of pilgrimage among the Jews, because Hillel, Shammai, Simeon ben Jochai, and other noted Rabbins are said to be buried there (see Robinson, Pal. iii. p. 333), about two hours' journey north-west of Szafed, upon a rocky mountain, at the foot of which there is a spring that forms a small brook and flows away through the valley below Szafed (Seetzen, R. ii. pp. 127-8; Robinson, Bibl. Res. pp. 73ff.). This stream, which is said to reach the Lake of Tiberias, in the neighbourhood of Bethsaida, is in all probability to be regarded as the "waters of Merom," as, according to Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 18), "these kings encamped at Berothe (de. Bell. Jud. xx. 6, and Vit. 37, 'Meroth'), a city of Upper Galilee, not far from Kedese."
(Note: The traditional opinion that "waters of Merom" is the Old Testament name for the Lake of Samochonitis, or Huleh, is not founded upon any historical evidence, but is simply an inference of Hadr. Reland (Pal. Ill. p. 262), (1) from the statement made by Josephus (Ant. v. 5, 1), that Hazor was above the Lake of Somochonitis, it being taken for granted without further reason that the battle occurred at Hazor, and (2) from the supposed similarity in the meaning of the names, viz., that Samochonitis is derived from an Arabic word signifying to be high, and therefore means the same as Merom (height), though here again the zere is disregarded, and Merom is arbitrarily identified with Marom.)
On account of this enormous number, and the might of the enemy, who were all the more to be dreaded because of their horses and chariots, the Lord encouraged Joshua again,
(Note: "As there was so much more difficulty connected with the destruction of so populous and well-disciplined an army, it was all the more necessary that he should be inspired with fresh confidence. For this reason God appeared to Joshua, and promised him the same success as He had given him so many times before." - Calvin.)
as in Jos 8:1, by promising him that on the morrow He would deliver them all up slain before Israel; only Joshua was to lame their horses (Gen 49:6) and burn their chariots. אנכי before נתן gives emphasis to the sentence: "I will provide for this; by my power, which is immeasurable, as I have shown thee so many times, and by my nod, by which heaven and earth are shaken, shall these things be done" (Masius).
With this to inspirit them, the Israelites fell upon the enemy and smote them, chasing them towards the north-west to Sidon, and westwards as far as Misrephothmaim, and into the plain of Mizpah on the east. Sidon is called the great (as in Jos 19:28), because at that time it was the metropolis of Phoenicia; whereas even by the time of David it had lost its ancient splendour, and was outstripped by its daughter city Tyre. It is still to be seen in the town of Saida, a town of five or six thousand inhabitants, with many large and well-built houses (see Rob. Pal. iii. p. 415, and Movers, Phnizier, ii. 1, pp. 86ff.). Misrephothmaim (mentioned also at Jos 13:6), which the Greek translators have taken as a proper name, though the Rabbins and some Christian commentators render it in different ways, such as salt-pits, smelting-huts, or glass-huts (see Ges. Thes. p. 1341), is a collection of springs, called Ain Mesherfi, at the foot of the promontory to which with its steep pass the name of Ras el Nakhra is given, the scala Tyriorum or Passepoulain of the Crusaders (see V. de Velde, Mem. p. 335, and Ritter, Erdk. xvi. p. 807). מצפּה בּקעת (Eng. Ver. "the valley of Mizpeh") is probably the basin of the Huleh lake and of Nahr Hasbany, on the western side of which lay the land of Mizpah (Jos 11:3).
Joshua carried out the command of the Lord with regard to the chariots and horses.
After destroying the foe, and returning from the pursuit, Joshua took Hazor, smote its king and all the inhabitants with the edge of the sword, and burned the town, the former leader of all those kingdoms. He did just the same to the other towns, except that he did not burn them, but left them standing upon their hills. על־תּלּם העמחות (Jos 11:13) neither contains an allusion to any special fortification of the towns, nor implies a contrast to the towns built in the valleys and plains, but simply expresses the thought that these towns were still standing upon their hill, i.e., upon the old site (cf. Jer 30:18 : the participle does not express the preterite, but the present). At the same time, the expression certainly implies that the towns were generally built upon hills. The pointing in תּלּם is not to be altered, as Knobel suggests. The singular "upon their hill" is to be taken as distributive: standing, now as then, each upon its hill. - With Jos 11:15, "as Jehovah commanded His servant Moses" (cf. Num 33:52.; Deu 7:1., Deu 20:16), the account of the wars of Joshua is brought to a close, and the way opened for proceeding to the concluding remarks with reference to the conquest of the whole land (Jos 11:16-23). דּבר הסיר לא, he put not away a word, i.e., left nothing undone.
Retrospective View of the Conquest of the Whole Land. - Jos 11:16, Jos 11:17. Joshua took all this land, namely, those portions of Southern Canaan that have already been mentioned in Jos 10:40-41; also the Arabah, and the mountains of Israel and its lowlands (see Jos 11:2), i.e., the northern part of the land (in the campaign described in Jos 11:1-15), that is to say, Canaan in all its extent, "from the bald mountain which goeth up to Seir" in the south, "to Baal-gad, in the valley of Lebanon under Hermon." The "bald mountain" (Halak), which is mentioned here and in Jos 12:7 as the southern boundary of Canaan, is hardly the row of white cliffs which stretches obliquely across the Arabah eight miles below the Dead Sea and forms the dividing line that separates this valley into el-Ghor and el-Araba (Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 489, 492), or the present Madara, a strange-looking chalk-hill to the south-west of the pass of Sufah (Rob. ii. p. 589), a steep bare mountain in a barren plain, the sides of which consist of stone and earth of a leaden ashy hue (Seetzen, R. iii. pp. 14, 15); but in all probability the northern edge of the Azazimeh mountain with its white and glistening masses of chalk. Baal-gad, i.e., the place or town of Baal, who was there worshipped as Gad (see Isa 65:11), also called Baal-hermon in Jdg 3:3 and Ch1 5:23, is not Baalbek, but the Paneas or Caesarea Philippi of a later time, the present Banjas (see at Num 34:8-9). This is the opinion of v. Raumer and Robinson, though Van de Velde is more disposed to look for Baal-gad in the ruins of Kalath (the castle of) Bostra, or of Kalath Aisafa, the former an hour and a half, the latter three hours to the north of Banjas, the situation of which would accord with the biblical statements respecting Baal-gad exceedingly well. The "valley of Lebanon" is not Coele-Syria, the modern Beka, between Lebanon and Antilibanus, but the valley at the foot of the southern slope of Jebel Sheik (Hermon).
Joshua made war with the kings of Canaan a long time; judging from Jos 14:7, Jos 14:10, as much as seven years, though Josephus (Ant. v. 1, 19) speaks of five (see at Jos 14:10). No town submitted peaceably to the Israelites, with the exception of Gibeon: they took the whole in war. "For it was of the Lord" (Jos 11:20), i.e., God ordered it so that they (the Canaanites) hardened their heart to make war upon Israel, that they might fall under the ban, and be destroyed without mercy. On the hardening of the heart as a work of God, see the remarks upon the hardening of Pharaoh (Exo 4:21). It cannot be inferred from this, that if the Canaanites had received the Israelites amicably, God would have withdrawn His command to destroy them, and allowed the Israelites to make peace with them; for when they made peace with the Gibeonites, they did not inquire what as the will of the Lord, but acted in opposition to it (see at Jos 9:14). The remark is made with special reference to this, and has been correctly explained by Augustine (qu. 8 in Jos.) as follows: "Because the Israelites had shown mercy to some of them of their own accord, though in opposition to the command of God, therefore it is stated that they (the Canaanites) made war upon them so that none of them were spared, and the Israelites were not induced to show mercy to the neglect of the commandment of God."
In Jos 11:21, Jos 11:22, the destruction of the Anakites upon the mountains of Judah and Israel is introduced in a supplementary form, which completes the history of the subjugation and extermination of the Canaanites in the south of the land (Josh 10). This supplement is not to be regarded either as a fragment interpolated by a different hand, or as a passage borrowed from another source. On the contrary, the author himself thought it necessary, having special regard to Num 13:28, Num 13:31., to mention expressly that Joshua also rooted out from their settlements the sons of Anak, whom the spies in the time of Moses had described as terrible giants, and drove them into the Philistine cities of Gaza, Bath, and Ashdod. "At that time" points back to the "long time," mentioned in Jos 11:18, during which Joshua was making war upon the Canaanites. The words "cut off," etc., are explained correctly by Clericus: "Those who fell into his hands he slew, the rest he put to flight, though, as we learn from Jos 15:14, they afterwards returned." (On the Anakim, see at Num 13:22.) They had their principal settlement upon the mountains in Hebron (el Khulil, see Jos 10:3), Debir (see at Jos 10:38), and Anab. The last place (Anab), upon the mountains of Judah (Jos 15:50), has been preserved along with the old name in the village of Anb, four or five hours to the south of Hebron, on the eastern side of the great Wady el Khulil, which runs from Hebron down to Beersheba (Rob. Pal. ii. p. 193). "And from all (the rest of) the mountains of Judah, and all the mountains of Israel:" the latter are called the mountains of Ephraim in Jos 17:15. The two together form the real basis of the land of Canaan, and are separated from one another by the large Wady Beit Hanina (see Rob. Pal. ii. p. 333). They received their respective names from the fact that the southern portion of the mountain land of Canaan fell to the tribe of Judah as its inheritance, and the northern part to the tribe of Ephraim and other tribes of Israel.
(Note: The distinction here made may be explained without difficulty even from the circumstances of Joshua's own time. Judah and the double tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) received their inheritance by lot before any of the others. But whilst the tribe of Judah proceeded into the territory allotted to them in the south, all the other tribes still remained in Gilgal; and even at a later period, when Ephraim and Manasseh were in their possessions, all Israel, with the exception of Judah, were still encamped at Shiloh. Moreover, the two parts of the nation were now separated by the territory which was afterwards assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, but had no owner at this time; and in addition to this, the altar, tabernacle, and ark of the covenant were in the midst of Joseph and the other tribes that were still assembled at Shiloh. Under such circumstances, then, would not the idea of a distinction between Judah, on the one hand, and the rest of Israel, in which the double tribe of Joseph and then the single tribe of Ephraim acquired such peculiar prominence, on the other, shape itself more and more in the mind, and what already existed in the germ begin to attain maturity even here? And what could be more natural than that the mountains in which the "children of Judah" had their settlements should be called the mountains of Judah; and the mountains where all the rest of Israel was encamped, where the "children of Israel" were gathered together, be called the mountains of Israel, and, as that particular district really belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, the mountains of Ephraim also? (Jos 19:50; Jos 20:7; also Jos 24:30.))
Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod were towns of the Philistines; of these Gaza and Ashdod were allotted to the tribe of Judah (Jos 15:47), but were never taken possession of by the Israelites, although the Philistines were sometimes subject to the Israelites (see at Jos 13:3). - With Jos 11:23, "thus Joshua took the whole land" etc., the history of the conquest of Canaan by Joshua is brought to a close; and Jos 11:23, "and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel," forms a kind of introduction to the second part of the book. The list of the conquered kings in Josh 12 is simply an appendix to the first part.
The taking of the whole land does not imply that all the towns and villages to the very last had been conquered, or that all the Canaanites were rooted out from every corner of the land, but simply that the conquest was of such a character that the power of the Canaanites was broken, their dominion overthrown, and their whole land so thoroughly given into the hands of the Israelites, that those who still remained here and there were crushed into powerless fugitives, who could neither offer any further opposition to the Israelites, nor dispute the possession of the land with them, if they would only strive to fulfil the commandments of their God and persevere in the gradual extermination of the scattered remnants. Moreover, Israel had received the strongest pledge, in the powerful help which it had received from the Lord in the conquests thus far obtained, that the faithful covenant God would continue His help in the conflicts which still remained, and secure for it a complete victory and the full possession of the promised land. Looking, therefore, at the existing state of things from this point of view, Joshua had taken possession of the whole land, and could now proceed to finish the work entrusted to him by the Lord, by dividing the land among the tribes of Israel. Joshua had really done all that the Lord had said to Moses. For the Lord had not only promised to Moses the complete extermination of the Canaanites, but had also told him that He would not drive out the Canaanites at once, or "in one year," but only little by little, until Israel multiplied and took the land (Exo 23:28-30; cf. Deu 7:22). Looking at this promised, therefore, the author of the book could say with perfect justice, that "Joshua took the whole land according to all that (precisely in the manner in which) the Lord had said to Moses." But this did not preclude the fact, that a great deal still remained to be done before all the Canaanites could be utterly exterminated from every part of the land. Consequently, the enumeration of towns and districts that were not yet conquered, and of Canaanites who still remained, which we find in Jos 13:1-6; Jos 17:14., Jos 18:3; Jos 23:5, Jos 23:12, forms no discrepancy with the statements in the verses before us, so as to warrant us in adopting any critical hypotheses or conclusions as to the composition of the book by different authors. The Israelites could easily have taken such portions of the land as were still unconquered, and could have exterminated all the Canaanites who remained, without any severe or wearisome conflicts; if they had but persevered in fidelity to their God and in the fulfilment of His commandments. If, therefore, the complete conquest of the whole land was not secured in the next few years, but, on the contrary, the Canaanites repeatedly gained the upper hand over the Israelites; we must seek for the explanation, not in the fact that Joshua had not completely taken and conquered the land, but simply in the fact that the Lord had withdrawn His help from His people because of their apostasy from Him, and had given them up to the power of their enemies to chastise them for their sins. - The distribution of the land for an inheritance to the Israelites took place "according to their divisions by their tribes." מחלקות denote the division of the twelve tribes of Israel into families, fathers' houses, and households; and is so used not only here, but in Jos 12:7 and Jos 18:10. Compare with this Ch1 23:6; Ch1 24:1, etc., where it is applied to the different orders of priests and Levites. "And the land rested from war:" i.e., the war was ended, so that the peaceable task of distributing the land by lot could now be proceeded with (vid., Jos 14:15; Jdg 3:11, Jdg 3:30; Jdg 5:31).