How Joshua Conquered the Land of Canaan
Joshua and the Land of Canaan
Joshua ix: 1, to
of all that Joshua and the men of Israel had done at
Jericho and at Ai, how they had destroyed those
cities and slain their people, went through all the
land. Everywhere the tribes of Canaan prepared to
fight these strangers who had so suddenly and so
boldly entered their country.
Near the middle of the mountain region, between
Jerusalem and Shechem, were four cities of a race
called either the Hivites, or the Gibeonites, from
their chief city, Gibeon. These people felt that
they could not resist the Israelites; so they
undertook to make peace with them. Their cities were
less than a day's journey from the camp at Gilgal,
and quite near to Ai; but they came to Joshua at the
camp, looking as if they had made a long journey.
They were wearing old and ragged garments, and shoes
worn out; and they brought dry and mouldy bread, and
old bags of food, and wine-skins torn and mended.
They met Joshua and the elders of Israel in the
camp, and said to them:
"We live in a country far away; but we have heard of
the great things that you have done; the journey you
have made, and the cities you have taken on the
other side of the river Jordan; and now we have come
to offer you our friendship and to make peace with
you." And Joshua said to them, "Who are you? And
from what land do you come?"
"We have come," they said, "from a country far away.
See this bread. We took it hot from the oven, and
now it is mouldy. These wine-skins were new when we
filled them, and you see they are old. Look at our
garments and our shoes, all worn out and patched."
Joshua and the elders did not ask the Lord what to
do, but made an agreement with these men to have
peace with them, not to destroy their cities, and to
spare the lives of their people. And a very few days
after making peace with them they found that the
four cities where they lived were very near.
At first the Israelite rulers were very angry, and
were inclined to break their agreement, but
afterward they said:
"We will keep our promise to these people, though
they have deceived us. We will let them live, but
they shall be made our servants, and shall do the
hard work for the camp and for the Tabernacle."
Even this was better than to be killed, and to have
their cities destroyed; and the Gibeonite people
were glad to save their lives. So from that time the
people of the four Gibeonite cities carried burdens,
and drew water, and cut wood, and served the camp of
The largest city near to the camp at Gilgal was
Jerusalem, among the mountains, where its king,
Melchizedek, in the days of Abraham, five hundred
years before, had been a priest of the Lord, and had
blessed Abraham. But now, in the days of Joshua, the
people of that city worshipped idols and were very
When the king of Jerusalem heard that the Gibeonites,
who lived near him, had made peace with Israel, he
sent to the kings of Hebron and Lachish and several
other cities, and said to them:
"Come, let us unite our armies into one great army
and fight the Gibeonites and destroy them; for they
have made peace with our enemies, the people of
As soon as the people of Gibeon heard this they sent
to Joshua, saying:
"Come quickly and help us; for we are your servants;
and the king of Jerusalem is coming with a great
army to kill us all, and destroy our cities. The
whole country is in arms against us; come at once,
before it is too late!"
Joshua was a very prompt man, swift in all his acts.
At once he called out his army, and marched all
night up the mountains. He came suddenly upon the
five kings and their army at a place called Beth-horon.
There a great battle was fought, Joshua leading his
men against the Canaanites. He did not give his
enemies time to form in line, but fell upon them so
suddenly that they were driven into confusion, and
fled before the men of Israel.
And the Lord helped his people by a storm which
drove great hailstones down on the Canaanites; so
that more were killed by the hailstones than by the
sword. It is written in an old song that on that day
Joshua said before all his men:
"Sun, stand thou still over Gibeon.
And thou, moon, in the valley of Ajalon,
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed,
Until the people had taken vengeance upon their
If ever in all the history of the world there was a
battle when the sun might well stand still, and the
day be made longer, to make the victory complete, it
was that day more than any other. For on that day
the land was won by the people of the Lord. If
Israel had been defeated and destroyed, instead of
Canaan, then the Bible would never have been
written, the worship of the true God would have been
blotted out, and the whole world would have
worshipped idols. The battle that day was for the
salvation of the world as well as of Israel. So this
was the greatest battle in its results that the
world has ever seen. There have been many battles
where more men fought, and more soldiers were slain,
than at the battle of Beth-horon. But no battle in
all the world had such an effect in the years and
the ages after, as this battle.
After the victory Joshua followed his enemies as
they fled, and killed many of them, until their
armies were broken up and destroyed. The five kings
who had led against Joshua were found hidden in a
cave, were brought out and were slain, so that they
might no more trouble the Israelites. By this one
victory all the part of the land of Canaan on the
south was won, though there were a few small fights
Then Joshua turned to the north, and led his army by
a swift march against the kings who had united there
to fight the Israelites. As suddenly as before he
had fallen on the five kings at Beth-horon, he fell
upon these kings and their army, near the little
lake in the far north of Canaan, called "the waters
of Merom." There another great victory was won; and
after this it was easy to conquer the land.
Everywhere the tribes of Canaan were made to submit
to the Israelites, until all the mountain country
was under Joshua's rule.
In the conquest of Canaan, there were six great
marches and six battles; three in the lands on the
east of the Jordan, while Moses was still living,
the victories over the Amorites, the Midianites, and
the people of Bashan, on the northeast, and there on
the west of the Jordan, the victories at Jericho, at
Beth-horon, and Lake Merom, under Joshua.
But even after these marchings and victories, it was
a long time before all the land was taken by the
Joshua and the Land of Canaan