Joshua 11:12, 13: The Taking of the Other Northern Cities

Verse 12:[1] And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, (Num. 33:52; Deut. 7:2; 20:16, 17) as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded.

[Just as Moses had commanded] In this way they are both cleared from the reputation of cruelty, and at the same time commended for obedience. It is great piety to destroy, when God commanded it; but on the other hand, it is a foolish, even impious, lenience to spare. See 1 Kings 20:42; Jeremiah 48:10 (Masius).


Verse 13:[2] But as for the cities that stood still in their strength (Heb. on a heap[3]), Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn.

[Except for the cities that were situated on hills and mounds, הָעֹֽמְדוֹת֙ עַל־תִּלָּ֔ם] The Vulgate appears to have read here עַל תִלִּם, instead of תלִּים, through a loss of the י. And I confess that, if it be read in this manner, the sense is plain (Dieu). [Interpreters translate it variously.] Which were standing upon their mound (Montanus), or, on their mounds (Tigurinus), or rather, on their mound (Dieu, Masius, Drusius). Which were remaining in their strength (the Chaldean in Masius), strong (Theodotion), κεχωματισμένας, that is, fortified with mounds (the Septuagint in Masius), which is to say, Only those cities were preserved, the bulwarks of which, when they were conquered, were not destroyed by the force or fury of the soldiers; that is, which the first fury and impetus had spared: no city was deliberately destroyed except Hazor (Hebrews in Masius). Which remained with their rampart (Junius and Tremellius), that is, which indeed did expect a siege, but, before their ramparts were cast down by force, surrendered themselves, according to the law of Deuteronomy 20:10 (Junius). [This does not satisfy Louis de Dieu.] Why then [says he] is Hazor here excepted? had it not surrendered itself? Indeed, not one of those cities surrendered itself, verse 19. That yet stood in their strength (Pagnine, English). That stood in their fortification after the assault. That remained in their integrity (Castalio). Others maintain that their eminence of place is signified. That were situated, or stood, upon inclines, or hills (Dieu, Dutch, Syriac, Bochart’s A Sacred Catalogue of Animals, Masius). That yet stood on their heap (read mound [Dieu]), that is, as they were situated: for at that time they were situated as frequently as possible in elevated places (Vatablus). That were built on more eminent places, and for that were more easily defended. תֵּל, or תִּלָּה, is a mound: and in Scripture some cities have their names from such a situation; like Tel-melah, Ezra 2:59;[4] Thelasar, 2 Kings 19:12;[5] Tel-abib, Ezekiel 3:15.[6] Thus, Jerusalem shall be built עַל־תִּלָּהּ, upon its own heap, Jeremiah 30:18, that is, upon the same mountains, concerning which Psalm 87:1, His foundation is in the holy mountains (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Canaan” 1:29:615). A comparison is made between these cities, and those that are mentioned as burned, namely, Jericho and Ai, which were situated in flat places. Hence one is said to descend from Jerusalem to Jericho.[7] Therefore, since most cities of the Promised Land were situated on slopes and mounds, he spared those, with the exception of Hazor (Dieu). The people did not burn the fortified cities on the hills, since those were more easily able to be defended (Lapide, similarly Bonfrerius). But they destroyed the rest, lest they become refuges for the remnants of the Canaanites (Bonfrerius, similarly Lapide).

In their strength; Hebrew, with[8] (for so this preposition is oft used, as Exodus 35:22;[9] Leviticus 2:2;[10] Ezekiel 16:37,[11] etc.) their fence or fences, walls or bulwarks, that is, which were not utterly ruined together with their walls in the taking of them.

[Only Hazor] The chief city. For, if this had remained intact, it would have been a continual occasion for war, with the Canaanites keeping perpetual watch to reclaim this royal city (Bonfrerius). Now, it is to be noted that, not Israel, but Joshua, is related to have burned Hazor: that is to say, this was not done in passion, or rashly, and with military license, but calmly, and designedly, and as a result of the deliberation of the Commander-in-Chief. The remaining cities were preserved, so that they might at length be refuges for the Israelites. For it was sufficient that a memorable example of the power of God be set up in the capital, by which the remaining enemies might be terrified (Masius).

Save Hazor only; which though taken by the Israelites, was not so much destroyed as other places were. That did Joshua burn, because this city began the war; and being the chief and royal city, might renew the war, if the Canaanites should ever seize upon it.

[1] Hebrew: וְֽאֶת־כָּל־עָרֵ֣י הַמְּלָכִֽים־הָ֠אֵלֶּה וְֽאֶת־כָּל־מַלְכֵיהֶ֞ם לָכַ֧ד יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ וַיַּכֵּ֥ם לְפִי־חֶ֖רֶב הֶחֱרִ֣ים אוֹתָ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוָּ֔ה מֹשֶׁ֖ה עֶ֥בֶד יְהוָֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: רַ֣ק כָּל־הֶעָרִ֗ים הָעֹֽמְדוֹת֙ עַל־תִּלָּ֔ם לֹ֥א שְׂרָפָ֖ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל זוּלָתִ֛י אֶת־חָצ֥וֹר לְבַדָּ֖הּ שָׂרַ֥ף יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ׃

[3] Hebrew: עַל־תִּלָּם.

[4] Ezra 2:59a:  “And these were they which went up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsaמִתֵּ֥ל) מֶ֙לַח֙ תֵּ֣ל חַרְשָׁ֔א), Cherub, Addan, and Immer…”

[5] 2 Kings 19:12:  “Have the gods of the nations delivered them which my fathers have destroyed; as Gozan, and Haran, and Rezeph, and the children of Eden which were in Thelasar (בִּתְלַאשָּׂר)?”

[6] Ezekiel 3:15a:  “Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib (תֵּל אָבִיב), that dwelt by the river of Chebar…”

[7] See Luke 10:30.

[8] Hebrew: עַל.

[9] Exodus 35:22a:  “And they came, both men and women (הָאֲנָשִׁ֖ים עַל־הַנָּשִׁ֑ים), as many as were willing hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold…”

[10] Leviticus 2:2:  “And he shall bring it to Aaron’s sons the priests:  and he shall take thereout his handful of the flour thereof, and of the oil thereof, with all the frankincense thereof (עַ֖ל כָּל־לְבֹנָתָ֑הּ); and the priest shall burn the memorial of it upon the altar, to be an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord…”

[11] Ezekiel 16:37:  “Behold, therefore I will gather all thy lovers, with whom thou hast taken pleasure (אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָרַ֣בְתְּ עֲלֵיהֶ֔ם), and all them that thou hast loved, with all them that thou hast hated (עַ֖ל כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׂנֵ֑את); I will even gather them round about against thee, and will discover thy nakedness unto them, that they may see all thy nakedness.”

1 thought on “Joshua 11:12, 13: The Taking of the Other Northern Cities

  1. Matthew Henry: “We have here the same improvement made of this victory as was made of that in the foregoing chapter…. The rest of the cities of that part of the country are spoken of only in general, that Joshua got them all into his hands, but did not burn them as he did Hazor, for Israel was to dwell in great and goodly cities which they builded not (Deuteronomy 6:10) and in these among the rest. And here we find Israel rolling in blood and treasure. (1.) In the blood of their enemies; they smote all the souls (Joshua 11:11), neither left they any to breathe (Joshua 11:14), that there might be none to infect them with the abominations of Canaan, and none to disturb them in the possession of it. The children were cut off, lest they should afterwards lay claim to any part of this land in the right of their parents. (2.) In the wealth of their enemies. The spoil, and the cattle, they took for a prey to themselves, Joshua 11:14. As they were enriched with the spoil of their oppressors when they came out of Egypt, wherewith to defray the charges of their apprenticeship in the wilderness, so they were now enriched with the spoil of their enemies for a stock wherewith to set up in the land of Canaan. Thus is the wealth of the sinner laid up for the just.”

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