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Joshua Chapter Twelve                            


Joshua 12

Chapter Contents

The two kings conquered by Moses. (1-6) The kings whom Joshua smote. (7-24)

Commentary on Joshua 12:1-6

(Read Joshua 12:1-6)

Fresh mercies must not drown the remembrance of former mercies, nor must the glory of the present instruments of good to the church diminish the just honour of those who went before them, since God is the same who wrought by both. Moses gave to one part of Israel a very rich and fruitful country, but it was on the outside of Jordan. Joshua gave to all Israel the holy land, within Jordan. So the law has given to some few of God's spiritual Israel worldly blessings, earnests of good things to come; but our Lord Jesus, the true Joshua, provided for all the children of promise spiritual blessings, and the heavenly Canaan.

Commentary on Joshua 12:7-24

(Read Joshua 12:7-24)

We have here the limits of the country Joshua conquered. A list is given of the kings subdued by Israel: thirty-one in all. This shows how fruitful Canaan then was, in which so many chose to throng together. This was the land God appointed for Israel; yet in our day it is one of the most barren and unprofitable countries in the world. Such is the effect of the curse it lies under, since its possessors rejected Christ and his gospel, as was foretold by Moses, Deuteronomy 29:23. The vengeance of a righteous God, inflicted on all these kings and their subjects, for their wickedness, should make us dread and hate sin. The fruitful land bestowed on his chosen people, should fill our hearts with hope and confidence in his mercy, and with humble gratitude.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Joshua


Joshua 12

Verse 1

[1] Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:

Plain on the east — On the east of Jordan, called the plain, Deuteronomy 1:1.

Verse 2

[2] Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon;

Middle of the river — It is not unusual even among us, for a river to be divided between two lords, and for their territories or jurisdictions to meet in the middle of the river: and besides, here is a very particular reason for this expression, because the city Ar, which was no part of Sihon's dominions, but belonged to the Moabites, Deuteronomy 2:9,18, was in the middle of the river Arnon, Deuteronomy 2:36; 3:16, and therefore the middle of the river is properly here mentioned, as the bound of Sihon's dominion on that side.

Half Gilead — Heb. and the half Gilead, that is, half of the country of Gilead; this doth not denote the bound from which his dominion began, but the country, over which his dominion was, which began at Arnon, and took in half Gilead, and ended at Jabbok, beyond which was the other half of Gilead which belonged to Og.

Verse 3

[3] And from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, the way to Bethjeshimoth; and from the south, under Ashdothpisgah:

On the east — Which words describe the situation not of the sea of Cinneroth, which was part of the western border of Sihon's dominion, but of the plain, which is here said to lie eastward from the sea of Cinneroth, and also eastward from the salt sea. And this was indeed the situation of the plains of Moab, which are here spoken of; they lay between the two seas, that of Cinneroth and the salt sea, and eastward to them both.

Sea of the plain — The salt sea was a famous plain, pleasant and fruitful, before it was turned into a sea.

Verse 4

[4] And the coast of Og king of Bashan, which was of the remnant of the giants, that dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei,

Ashtaroth and Edrei — Sometimes at the one, sometimes at the other city; both being his royal mansions. But Israel made one grave serve him, who could not be contented with one palace.

Verse 6

[6] Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.

Smile — Fresh mercies must not drown the remembrance of former mercies: nor must the glory of the present instruments of good to the church, diminish the just honour of those that went before them. Joshua's services were confessedly great. But let not those under Moses be forgotten. Both together proclaim God to be the Alpha and Omega of his peoples salvation.

Verse 8

[8] In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:

The wilderness — This word here and elsewhere in scripture notes not a land wholly desert and uninhabited, but one thin of inhabitants, as 1 Kings 2:34; 9:18; Matthew . The Gargashites either were now incorporated with some other of these nations, or as the tradition of the Jews is, upon the approach of Israel under Joshua, they all withdrew and went unto Africk, leaving their land to be possessed by the Israelites, with whom they saw, it was fruitless to contend.

Verse 23

[23] The king of Dor in the coast of Dor, one; the king of the nations of Gilgal, one;

King of Gilgal — Not of that Gilgal where Joshua first lodged after his passage over Jordan; where it doth not appear, that there was either king or city; but of a city of the same name, probably in Galilee towards the sea, where divers people might possibly resort for trade and merchandise, over whom this was a king, as formerly Tidal seems to have been, Genesis 14:1.

Verse 24

[24] The king of Tirzah, one: all the kings thirty and one.

Thirty one — Each being king only of one city or small province belonging to it, which was by the wise and singular providence of God, that they might be more easily conquered. But what a fruitful land must Canaan then be, which could subsist so many kingdoms! And yet at this day it is one of the most barren and despicable countries in the world. Such is the effect of the curse it lies under, since its inhabitants rejected the Lord of glory!

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Joshua


12 Chapter 12


Verses 1-24

Joshua 12:1-24

These axe the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote.

The goodness and severity of God

This chapter is a short summary of the work that has been done. In this resume of the conquest Moses is not forgotten. He is named as well as Joshua. The Holy Ghost delights to point out how God causes many instruments to work out His designs, and thus takes all praise from man. Thus the chapter is a miniature, suggesting all the victories that Israel won, and all the defeats which overwhelmed the Canaanites. Accordingly it is valuable as a demonstration that both the promises and the threatenings of God will be fulfilled to the letter. Here as in a glass we see on the one hand the course and the end of those who follow God, and on the other the course and the end of those who resist. Or, we have pointed out to us the narrow way that leads to life, and the broad road that leads to destruction. May we ponder these things and learn the way wherein we should walk.

I. The different roads. That of Israel was the path of obedience. Everything was done by Divine command. But it was not always easy work for Israel to obey. The commands of God not only led along a narrow way, but often brought them up to a strait gate. They had just to go right on, according to the command of God. Obedience was their watchword. To stop and parley was to be lost. Patient endurance characterised them all through. When an old general was asked why he picked out the old veterans for a forced march he replied, “Because they have the most staying power.” For hard work of any kind this is what tells in the long run; and from the first encounter with Sihon and Og to the last wrestle with the Anakim Israel exhibited this quality both in things physical and things spiritual. Obedience was the path: patient endurance was the characteristic of those who walked therein. On the part of the Canaanites their course was marked by rebellion. They said, “Who is Lord over us?” Thus they hardened themselves against God’s will, and fought it out to the bitter end, learning no lesson and yielding no submission. These two paths of obedience and rebellion have not ceased to be trodden. Neither of them is grass-grown. Thank God there are many who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality. If there must be patient continuance on the part of those who walk the narrow way, there must be constant contention on the part of those who hurry down the broad road. There must be the resistance of the Holy Ghost, of the warnings of conscience, of the light of truth. There must be at times the fear of death and judgment and eternity.

II. The different objects placed before each. That placed before Israel was something very definite and tangible, viz., the sure promise of Jehovah. To them that promise was the title-deed of the Holy Land; therefore all through this war they had in their eye a Divine inheritance, and all the glory and honour which this implied. Can we find any similar incitement on the part of the Canaanites? Nay. Theirs was a hopeless struggle. They were without God and therefore without hope. They obeyed unrighteousness, and were therefore filled with unrest. So is it now. They who walk in the obedience of faith have a glorious object before their eyes to stimulate and encourage them. They seek for glory and honour and immortality. And they have good hope through grace of obtaining it. Yea, they have God’s faithful promise, and therefore glorious assurance of the result. But where is the hope of the rebellious? It is but a vague, unsatisfying dream. At the very best they have no certainty of a happy issue. When they pass hence it is “A leap in the dark.” What a miserable plight is this l Notwithstanding their vast coalitions, their imposing armies, their formidable weapons, their notable leaders, they go forward with fear. The Sihon and Og of materialism, the Adoni-zedek of sacerdotalism, the Jabin of false philosophy, can inspire no true and blessed hope in the hearts of their faltering followers.

III. The different ends. We see the Israelites marching on from victory to victory; entering into Canaan, enjoying the smile of God, and reaping the fruit of their labours. We see the Canaanites swept with the besom of destruction, and all that is left of their mightiest kings is the chronicle of their tombstones as given here. The ends are different because the beginnings are different. Of Israel it might be said, “These all fought in faith.” Of the Canaanites it might be said, “These all died in unbelief.” Paul has laid plainly before us in the Epistle to the Romans these two ends, as we must know them. On the one hand he places eternal life, glory, honour, peace. On the other he places indignation, wrath, tribulation, anguish. One or other of these is the terminus to which every life is hastening. And he also plainly tells us that without faith it is impossible to walk in the good way or to attain the glorious end. Remember then God’s solemn record of the dead. He marks His own as precious jewels, to be worn in His crown in the day of glory, but He counts His enemies but worthless ashes to be trodden under foot. In the Divine record of the dead there are no omissions, no oversights, and no lies. He counts His enemies and He counts His friends. How will He count you? (A. B. Mackay.)

──The Biblical Illustrator