The Book Of Joshua


Victories over Two Alliances : Joshua 9:1-12:24

Israel’s victories over two alliances, in chapters 9–12, can be confusing because these chapters contain a lot of diverse material. But it helps if we realize that this section divides into four main parts. 

The first part, in 9:1, 2, gives a short overview of the alliances that stood against Israel. This briefly introduces what happens in the next chapters. As these verses tell us, “all the kings who were beyond the Jordan … gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.” 

The fourth and final part of the account of alliances, in 11:16–12:24, balances with this opening introduction by giving a twofold overview of Israel’s victories. To start, 11:16, 23 calls attention to the full range of victories in southern and northern Cisjordan. This report stresses that Joshua destroyed all that God had commanded him to destroy. And it concludes in verse 23 with these words: “And the land had rest from war.” Following this, in 12:1-24, our author ended this division of the book with a list of kings and lands that Israel had acquired through victories, both in Transjordan and Cisjordan. 

Between these bookends, we find two main sections. The first is in 9:3–10:43 where our author reported Israel’s victories over a southern alliance. These chapters begin with the problematic Gibeonite treaty in 9:3-27. The Gibeonites, who lived in the heart of Canaan, deceived Israel into making a peace treaty with them by claiming that they had come from outside of Canaan. And this treaty prompted a large-scale conflict in the southern region of the Promised Land.

This large-scale conflict, in 10:1-15, led to an initial southern victory for Israel. In these verses, the king of Jerusalem formed an alliance of five southern kings and attacked the Gibeonites, who then appealed to Joshua for help. Because of their treaty, Israel was obligated to help the Gibeonites. And God gave Joshua a miraculous victory in this initial southern battle. And then, in Joshua 10:16-43, the author added a brief record of Joshua’s widespread southern victories, his victories in various places over the entire southern alliance. As our author noted in 10:40, “Joshua struck the whole land.” 

The next main section in this part of the book is in 11:1-15. Here, our author turned to Israel’s victories over a northern alliance. This section has a similar pattern to Joshua’s victories in the south, but the record is much shorter. In verses 1-11, the king of Hazor formed an alliance against Israel. We read in 11:4 that this alliance consisted of “a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore.” But God gave Israel victory over this northern alliance as well. So, in 11:12-15 we find a summary of Joshua’s decisive victory throughout the northern region.