Joshua 10:11: Hailstones from Heaven

Verse 11:[1] And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, (Ps. 18:13, 14; 77:17; Is. 30:30; Ecclus. 46:6;[2] Rev. 16:21) that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.

[Great stones] Namely, hail, as the word בָּרָד[3] shows (and thus the Septuagint and Arabic translate it, stones of hail), but more powerfully compacted with greater force of cold. Now, that with so certain a blow God cast down upon enemies, that the victors mixed with these, or at least following hard upon them, this calamity did not touch, is more marvelous than what was done in Exodus 9:25, 26. Moreover, that thunder and lightning came down with the hail appears from Habakkuk 3:11, and is affirmed by Josephus in Antiquities 5:2 (Masius). It rains stones often in the histories (Grotius). Livy is a witness, History of Rome 1:1; 3:10. But those rains eutger were produced by a certain intemperance of air, or were generated by Satan, the ape of God in a great many matters (Masius, Bonfrerius).

Great stones, that is, hailstones of extraordinary greatness and hardness, cast down with that certainty as to hit the Canaanites, and not their pursuers the Israelites, and with that force as to kill them. Josephus affirms that thunder and lightning were mixed with the hail, which may seem probable from Habakkuk 3:11.

[From heaven] Either because they came down from God; or because they were from the middle region of atmosphere (Masius). That similar helps of lightning were sent to the Christian legion under Marcus Aurelius[4] is related by Eusebius, Church History 5:5, and Tertullian, Apology 5: and also by Claudian[5] in The Consulship of Honorius 6, and Dio[6] on Marcus Aurelius; although they ascribe this matter to Magic, or to the probity of the Emperor (Bonfrerius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֞י בְּנֻסָ֣ם׀ מִפְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל הֵ֞ם בְּמוֹרַ֤ד בֵּית־חוֹרֹן֙ וַֽיהוָ֡ה הִשְׁלִ֣יךְ עֲלֵיהֶם֩ אֲבָנִ֙ים גְּדֹל֧וֹת מִן־הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם עַד־עֲזֵקָ֖ה וַיָּמֻ֑תוּ רַבִּ֗ים אֲשֶׁר־מֵ֙תוּ֙ בְּאַבְנֵ֣י הַבָּרָ֔ד מֵאֲשֶׁ֥ר הָרְג֛וּ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בֶּחָֽרֶב׃

[2] Ecclesiasticus 46:6:  “And with hailstones of mighty power he made the battle to fall violently upon the nations, and in the descent of Beth-horon he destroyed them that resisted, that the nations might know all their strength, because he fought in the sight of the Lord, and he followed the Mighty One.”

[3] Joshua 10:11:  “And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones (אֲבָנִ֙ים גְּדֹל֧וֹת) from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones (בְּאַבְנֵ֣י הַבָּרָ֔ד, with stones of hail) than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.”

[4] Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180.

[5] Claudian (late fourth-early fifth century AD) was a Roman poet from Alexandria.

[6] Dio Cassius was a Roman historian of the third century AD.  His Historiæ Romanæ is an important sourse of information concerning that period.

1 thought on “Joshua 10:11: Hailstones from Heaven

  1. Matthew Henry: “God showed his great power in defeating the enemies whom Joshua so vigorously attacked, Joshua 10:10, 11. Joshua had a very numerous and powerful army with him, hands enough to despatch a dispirited enemy, so that the enemy might have been scattered by the ordinary fate of war; but God himself would appear in this great and decisive battle, and draw up the artillery of heaven against the Canaanites, to demonstrate to this people that they got not this land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them, but God’s right hand and his arm, Psalm 44:3. The Lord discomfited them before Israel. Israel did what they could, and yet God did all. [1.] It must needs be a very great terror and confusion to the enemy to perceive that heaven itself fought against them; for who can contest with, flee from, or fence against, the powers of heaven? They had affronted the true God and robbed him of his honour by worshipping the host of heaven, giving that worship to the creature which is due to the Creator only; and now the host of heaven fights against them, and even that part of the creation which they had idolized is at war with them, and even triumphs in their ruin, Jeremiah 8:2. There is no way of making any creature propitious to us, no, not by sacrifice nor offering, but only by making our peace with God and keeping ourselves in his love. This had been enough to make them an easy prey to the victorious Israelites, yet this was not all. [2.] Besides the terror struck upon them, there was a great slaughter made of them by hailstones, which were so large, and came down with such a force, that more were killed by the hailstones than by the sword of the Israelites, though no doubt they were busy. God himself speaks to Job of treasures, or magazines, of snow and hail, which he has reserved for the day of battle and war (Job 38:22, 23), and here they are made use of to destroy the Canaanites. Here was hail, shot from God’s great ordnance, that, against whomsoever it was directed, was sure to hit (and never glanced upon the Israelites mixed with them), and wherever it hit was sure to kill. See here how miserable those are that have God for their enemy, and how sure to perish; it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands, for there is no fleeing out of them. Some observe that Beth-horon lay north of Gibeon, Azekah and Makkedah lay south, so that they fled each way but, which way soever they fled, the hailstones pursued them, and met them at every turn.”

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