We are here entering upon the story of another campaign that Joshua made, and it was a glorious one, no less illustrious than the former in the success of it, though in respect of miracles it was inferior to it in glory. The wonders God then wrought for them were to animate and encourage them to act vigorously themselves. Thus the war carried on by the preaching of the gospel against Satan’s kingdom was at first forwarded by miracles; but, the war being by them sufficiently proved to be of God, the managers of it are now left to the ordinary assistance of divine grace in the use of the sword of the Spirit, and must not expect hail-stones nor the standing still of the sun. In this story we have,
I. The Canaanites taking the field against Israel. They were the aggressors, God hardening their hearts to begin the war, that Israel might be justified beyond exception in destroying them. Joshua and all Israel had returned to the camp at Gilgal, and perhaps these kings knew no other than that they intended to sit down content with the conquest they had already made, and yet they prepare war against them. Note, Sinners bring ruin upon their own heads, so that God will be justified when he speaks, and they alone shall bear the blame for ever. Judah had now couched as a lion gone up from the prey; if the northern kings rouse him up, it is at their peril, Gen. 49:9. Now, 1. Several nations joined in this confederacy, some in the mountains and some in the plains, Josh. 11:2. Canaanites from east and west, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, etc. (Josh. 11:3), of different constitutions and divided interests among themselves, and yet they here unite against Israel as against a common enemy. Thus are the children of this world more unanimous, and therein wiser, than the children of light. The oneness of the church’s enemies should shame the church’s friends out of their discords and divisions, and engage them to be one. 2. The head of this confederacy was Jabin king of Hazor (Josh. 11:1), as Adoni-zedec was of the former; it is said (Josh. 11:10) Hazor had been the head of all those kingdoms, which could not have revolted without occasioning ill-will; but this was forgotten and laid aside upon this occasion, by consent of parties, Luke 23:12. When they had all drawn up their forces together, every kingdom bringing in its quota, they were a very great army, much greater than the former, as the sand on the sea shore in multitude, and upon this account much stronger and more formidable, that they had horses and chariots very many, which we do not find the southern kings had; hereby they had a great advantage against Israel, for their army consisted only of foot, and they never brought horses nor chariots into the field. Josephus tells us that the army of the Canaanites consisted of 300,000 foot, 10,000 horses, and 20,000 chariots. Many there be that rise up against God’s Israel; doubtless their numbers made them very confident of success, but it proved that so much the greater slaughter was made of them.
II. The encouragement God gave to Joshua to give them the meeting, even upon the ground of their own choosing (Josh. 11:6): Be not afraid because of them. Joshua was remarkable for his courage—it was his master grace, and yet it seems he had need to be again and again cautioned not to be afraid. Fresh dangers and difficulties make it necessary to fetch in fresh supports and comforts from the word of God, which we have always nigh unto us, to be made use of in every time of need. Those that have God on their side need not be disturbed at the number and power of their enemies; more are those that are with us than those that are against us; those have the hosts of the Lord that have the Lord of hosts engaged for them. For his encouragement, 1. God assures him of success, and fixes the hour: To-morrow about this time, when an engagement (it is probable) was expected and designed on both sides, I will deliver them up slain. Though they were to be slain by the sword of Israel, yet it is spoken of as God’s work, that he would deliver them up. 2. He appoints him to hough their horses, hamstring them, lame them, and burn their chariots, not only that Israel might not use them hereafter, but that they might not fear them now, their God designing this contempt to be put upon them. Let Israel look upon their chariots but as rotten wood designed for the fire, and their horses of war as disabled things, scarcely good enough for the cart. This encouragement which God here gave to Joshua no doubt he communicated to the people, who perhaps were under some apprehensions of danger from this vast army, notwithstanding the experience they had had of God’s power engaged for them. And the wisdom and goodness of God are to be observed, (1.) In infatuating the counsels of the enemy, that all the kings of Canaan, who were not dispersed at such a distance from each other but that they might have got all together in a body, did not at first confederate against Israel, but were divided in to the southern and northern combination, and so became the less formidable. And, (2.) In preparing his people to encounter the greater force, by breaking the less. They first engage with five kings together, and now with many more. God proportions our trials to our strength and our strength to our trials.
III. Joshua’s march against these confederate forces, Josh. 11:7. He came upon them suddenly, and surprised them in their quarters. He made this haste, 1. That he might put them into the greater confusion, by giving them an alarm, when they little thought he was near them. 2. That he might be sure not to come short of the honour God had fixed, to give him the meeting at the enemies’ camp, to-morrow about this time. It is fit we should keep time with God.
IV. His success, Josh. 11:8. He obtained the honour and advantage of a complete victory; he smote them and chased them, in the several ways they took in their flight; some fled towards Zidon, which lay to the northwest, others towards Mizpeh, eastward, but the parties Joshua sent out pursued them each way. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel; they would not deliver themselves into the hands of Israel to be made proselytes and tributaries, and so offered up to God’s grace (Rom. 15:16), and therefore God delivered them into their hands to be made sacrifices to his justice; for God will be honoured by us or upon us.
V. His obedience to the orders given him, in destroying the horses and chariots (Josh. 11:9), which was an instance, 1. Of his subjection to the divine will, as one under authority, that must do as he is bidden. 2. Of his self-denial, and crossing his own genius and inclination in compliance with God’s command. 3. Of his confidence in the power of God engaged for Israel, which enabled them to despise the chariots and horses which others trusted in, Ps. 20:7; 33:17. 4. Of his care to keep up in the people the like confidence in God, by taking that from them which they would be tempted to trust too much to. This was cutting of a right hand.