<< Joshua 10: The Battle with the Five Kings >>
and the Sun and Moon Standing Still
Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.–Joshua x. 12-14.
IT is an important reflection that presents itself to the mind when we compare the quiet life in the wilderness which the Israelites had led for many years before the death of Moses with the great activity that followed the appointment of Joshua and the entrance of the Israelitish host into Canaan. No sooner is the Jordan passed than we read of the storming of Jericho, and then the stirring events involved in the struggle with Ai; and now we have before us the crisis of the great struggle between advancing Israel and the corrupt nations which existed as a moral pest–the worst portion of the human race enslaved in sin–an organized mass of the foulest polluters which blighted the hopes, and defiled the career of man.
The friendly adhesion of the Gibeonites to Israel was evidently an alarming circumstance to the mountain kings, the Amorites, who ruled each over his fastness and its fair but formidable territory. They determined at once to punish those whom they regarded as betraying the country to the dreaded strangers. The king of Jerusalem, with four others, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.–ver. 5. The men of Gibeon were filled with consternation, and sent pressingly to Joshua for instant help. Slack not thy hand from thy servants, they said; come up to us quickly and save us, and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.
The Israelites were at Gilgal, which appears to have been for some time their headquarters. Joshua prayed to the Lord for direction, and was answered, Fear them not, for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. A night march of nearly thirty miles was determined upon, while the defiles in the mountains were open; and before their astonished enemies could have supposed the army in motion, they were appalled by the impetuous attack of the now dreaded men of Israel. The hosts of the kings were defeated with great slaughter. The panic-struck multitude fled up the mountain road to Beth-horon the upper, chased by their victorious pursuers, and over the mountain range to Beth-horon the lower; the Amorite power was broken, and Israel fairly established in the land. While the hurrying foe was passing between the two Beth-horons a terrible storm of hailstones added to their disasters, so that more died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
The valorous leader of the Israelites felt the unspeakable importance of the victory then being achieved, and full of intensest energy, he sought to make the blow inflicted upon his opponents as complete as possible; and as he pressed on with his brave followers he cried out in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And by divine arrangement of the atmosphere, not difficult to conceive, the light of the sun was prolonged, and the moon appeared to remain still, until the rout of the Amorites was accomplished, and no power remained capable of defeating this people, once slaves, but now trained, encouraged, and directed by the Lord.
Many decisive battles have made lasting impressions on the career of nations, and given a certain character to their progress throughout their whole subsequent history. The victory at Poitiers which drove back Mahometan power in Europe, and our own battle of Hastings: Lutzen, Leipsic, and Naseby were of this kind; but more than these in their consequences was this great struggle at Beth-horon. It was the Marathon of Israel. Victory there secured the settlement of Canaan by the twelve tribes, the existence of the temple, the psalms of David, the line of prophets, and the vast consequences to mans spiritual history which have flowed from these.
Devoutly, therefore, should we trace the footsteps of Divine Providence in history, and feel how, by links only manifest to meditation, and fully known only to the All-wise, all the generations of men are connected together, and depend upon each other so as to form one vast network of events and circumstances leading on the progression of all mankind, all conducted by Infinite Mercy, all tending to the highest attainable good.
Hence, the Psalmist exclaims, O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. To him who smote great kings, for his mercy endureth for ever: end slew famous kings, for his mercy endureth for ever.
We have already remarked how great is the contrast between the comparative quiet of Israels history for many years before the death of Moses as compared with the rapid and decided actions which followed the march over the Jordan under the command of Joshua. When we remember the broad distinction between Israel on the outside of the Jordan, as representing religion in its external work of reforming our lives, and Israel on the inside of the Jordan, or within the promised land, as representative of religion when it is regenerating the heart, we shall perceive the important bearing of this fact on the Christians spiritual history.
After the agitations of decided conversion to God, and the struggles attendant upon a steady forsaking of outward sin, there comes a considerable period, not marked with vivid incidents. We do not fall back, but we are not aware of striking advancement. We do on in the usual way, learning and living as ordinary Christians do, but with nothing very progressive in our experience. We are encamped at the foot of Sinai, acquiring a knowledge of laws, statutes, and judgments in daily life. We are not tried much nor do we triumph much. We are for a long time in a somewhat monotonous state. We scarcely know whether we are advancing or not, and sometimes we suspect we are not. On the whole our lives and states are uneventful, but Divine Mercy is doing wonders for us within, and preparing us for that hidden work of religion represented by the labors of Joshua. Divine Mercy now discloses to us that no bitterness of temper most be allowed to remain, nor secret pride. A thousand things we have not detected in ourselves are revealed to us, and those magnificent words said to Israel are realized to us, The Eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, destroy them.
This revealing of our hidden foes to us, this disclosing of ourselves to ourselves, accompanied by the conviction that all wrong principles must perish from our hearts, and sins of feeling and sins of sentiment must be expelled as faithfully as formerly were sins of action, is a divine work.
These disclosures within, of hidden hates, of hidden envies, vanities, and pride, of hidden passions, of hidden lusts, of secret fires and impurities, those foes of a mans own heart and household is showing us the Amorites of the soul, and their extermination is the work of Israel under Joshua. A shallow religion says it cannot be done. All true religion says, it MUST be done. Only the pure in heart can see God.
The difference between a true genuine divine religion and a spurious religion is not so much in the outside life, and not so much in outside worship, as in the inward dispositions, sentiments, and feelings of the heart. The Pharisee is as strict in outward show as the man of true religion, but he loves the sin he dares not do, and hates those who do not favor him with deadlier animosity end more persevering rancor than many a worldling does. The record of the crimes flowing from the hates of men professing religion fill the darkest pages of the sad annals of human crime and misery. These secret evils true religion will root out; a spurious religion either pauses them over unnoticed, or if it cannot ignore them, declares they cannot be overcome, and insists that the essence of salvation is believing some dogmatic sentiment, made all-important by the vehement maintainers of it; or in the diligent practice of the ceremonies of the Church. Every old religion has thus its traditions which make the commandments of God of none effect. Every time that true religion is reasserted from heaven its golden burden is the same. Make you a new heart and a new spirit, for why will ye die, O house of Israel. Every impurity is within the heart until it is regenerated. No outward conformity to worship suffices to prepare the soul for heaven. Except the inward hell is transformed into a little heaven by the labors of heart-work under the leadership of the Divine Joshua, the Lord Jesus within, who can and will overcome our Amorites, there is no peace.
The Canaanites were the center of a decayed Church, an ancient system once true and immensely extensive, but long formed into a strange mixture of worship and vileness. That ancient religion had acknowledged a Sacred Volume including the. book of the Wars of Jehovah, the Prophecies, and the Book of Jasher, probably poems or psalms, for the references to this book are all poetic. All over Canaan were names of places indicating their dedication to the uses of a Divine Revelation long before Israel possessed the land. Thus we have a king of Jerusalem, the leader of the armed hosts against the Israelites, and his name was Adoni-zedec, the lord of righteousness.
In the time of Abraham, nearly five hundred years before the events we are now considering, there wits a Melchizedek, king of Salem, called the priest of the Most High God (Gen. xiv. 18). Many of the names mentioned in this Book of Joshua, which to the cursory reader convey no meaning, are seen to be eminently suggestive when their signification in Hebrew is given. Thus, in such a sentence as the following, how much of meaning is hidden. And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir; and the name of Debir before was Kirjath-Sepher. Debir means the Word, or the oracle; and Kirjath-Sepher means the metropolis of the book; Kirjath, whenever named, means the metropolis of a district, and Sepher is Hebrew for book. We can scarcely doubt that this Debir had been from very ancient times a city of priests, the teachers and expounders of a Divine Revelation.
The kings who rushed to prevent the march of Israel, and who began by attempting to destroy those whom they regarded as traitors to the land (although they, the Hivites, were its most ancient known inhabitants), had significant names.
The names with their interpretations are as follow: 1st, king Adoni-zedec, the lord of righteousness; and, king Hoham, woe unto them; 3rd, king Piram, a wild ass; 4th, king Japhia, outward show; 5th, king Debir, the Word.
These kings, one may easily perceive, represent such a mixture of truth and falsity as to form a system totally opposed to real purification of the heart, and real justice in life. Superstition esteems itself lord of righteousness–superstition breathes out denunciation against others, Woe unto them. Adoni-zedec opposing, calls upon Hoham to help him. Superstitions religion is sour, melancholy, and morose; it moans, and warns, and denounces. It is continually saying, Woe unto them. True religion is gentle, courteous, charitable, kind; ready to be just in its appreciation of others, and to do justice. True religion rejoices in Gods love and mercy to all, is genial, generous, frank, and easily entreated; ready to oblige, ready to defer to others, ready to act for the public good. Superstition strains at gnats, while it swallows camels. Superstition is full of gloom and ready to condemn. It raises its own whims and ways into divine commandments, and if any neglect these, it cries, Woe unto them. There are, however, three other kings to help this lord of righteousness which opposes Israel. There is Piram, the wild ass, Japhia, outward show, and lastly Debir. The wild ass is a symbol of a wrangler in religion. Ishmael was named a wild-ass man (Gen. xvi. 12), and the character is defined as one whose hand will be against every mans hand, and every mans hand against him.
A person of profession in religion, but who clings to and cherishes the inner evils of the heart, has been well described as one who will write for religion, quarrel for religion, fight for religion, and die for religion, but will not live for religion.
Wrangle and outward show are poor substitutes for love to God and love to man. Yet they are by many unfortunately preferred. For them, inner regeneration has been often resisted by thousands and millions, and hecatombs of slaughter have been made in the names of wrangle and of outward show. The thirty years religious war of Germany, and the forty years of religious wars of France, all owed their virulence to superstition, quarrelsomeness, and outward show, which practiced every abomination in the name of the Prince of Peace and purity. Debir, the last king, means the Word, because there must be some apparent acknowledgment of the Word, at least, for any system of professed religion to be maintained.
Such are the powers that sustain forms of religion which resist regeneration, and teach that the inner virtues of the heart are of no real necessity in preparing for heaven.
But in the struggles of the soul, when we appeal in earnest to the Lord Jesus to come and help us against these, He quickly appears. He travels all night, and early in the morning overthrows the tempting powers.
It is sad to reflect that a profession of religion should be made the means of defeating the sacred ends of religion itself, yet so it is. The work of religion is to change the outward life and inward affections, from evil to good, from disorder to order, from being selfish to being heavenly. If we fail in this, we fail in everything, so far as our eternal good is concerned. Yet the religion of a large portion of mankind is such as to divert the soul from this one thing needful, and to interest it in things really of very inferior importance, if of any value at all; such as pilgrimages, the use of relies, riveting the attention overweeningly upon the ceremonies and outward services of religion, to the neglect of the priceless attainments of a temper that cannot be roused to anger, of just principles that will not turn aside from integrity or stoop to meanness or dishonor for any consideration, and a life of truth, purity, and faithfulness to every duty and engagement.
Just as with one class of professing Christians the REGENERATION of the soul is neglected, and trivial forms and forgiveness by the priest, instead of change of heart, relied on, so by another class, faith in the merits of the Lord, and excitement, are made the all in all of Christian duty.
You are not to do anything, Christ has done everything. You have only to believe, and that instant you are saved, and made white as an angel. The intense joy felt at being liberated from the dread of torments, excruciating for the natural man to contemplate, and the offspring of unbridled imagination in preachers, who imagine the most repulsive horrors, and revel in them while they brandish them over the sinners head, often hides the evils ingrained in a mans inner dispositions from himself, and they only slowly shew themselves when the excitement has passed away, and with the advance of age. How often, as years increase, does amiability grow less! How often do worry and irascibility make aged Christians painful burdens to themselves and others, and the decline of life not like a glorious autumn, rich and smiling, with an abundant harvest of virtues and graces, but cold, hard, and bitter, like a premature winter!
These deadly results are inevitable unless we hasten up under the leadership of Joshua and come upon the kings of our spiritual Amorites–the lusts which dwell in the mountains, and who are headed by a lord of false righteousness, who speak of woe, instead of joy in doing good; who are quarrelsome and contentious instead of living in charity; and who make an outward show of religion instead of rooting out evil tempers within, and cultivating in every act of life meekness, truth, virtue, and good will to all men.
Joshua’s march all night from Gilgal, and sudden appearance with his host before the army of the confederates, represents the Lords presence with us in the interiors of the soul, preparing for victory while we are yet in doubt and darkness. Gilgal was about three miles within the Jordan, its name signifies a wheel, and it represents a state in which everything is prepared for progress, for the rejection of evil, and for advancement in good.
Startled by the presence and vigorous onset of the great leader, the man of courage and decision, the enemies broke and fled. They were slain with a great slaughter, and chased along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon (the house of wrath) the upper, and as they fled down to Beth-horon the nether.
The rocky pass along which they fled can easily be traced now. And as they hurried away and sunk, they were the sublime symbols of the impotence of sin, when the Lords help is faithfully used. From within to without, evil becomes powerless in the glow of holy zeal.
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that riseth up against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.
The hailstones the Lord cast down upon them (ver. 11), as they fled to Azekah (the strength of walls), represent condemnatory truths, which descend copiously while evils are yet trying to excuse themselves; and the pursuit to Makkedah where the kings took refuge in a cave represents the utter exhaustion of the evil; the name itself signifying exhaustion.
While Joshua saw the discomfited foe flying along the formidable defiles, and felt the unspeakable value of that days deliverance, he longed for a prolongation of the day, and taking up the divine poetry of the book of Jasher, he exclaimed, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
That which was spiritually expressive in the book of Jasher of the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, the sun and moon of the soul illuminating it, until the false and evil which had imperiled it were subdued, was actually represented before his eves. The sun and moon appeared to stand still, so as to lengthen the day, until the wild host of Israels enemies was utterly scattered and destroyed. In the same way, as every evening to lengthen our day, the sun appears above the horizon by refraction in the atmosphere twenty minutes after he has actually gone down; in the same way as in the north, frequently another sun, or two other suns appear by refraction, quite as bright as the real sun. So to the senses of the children of Israel, and as far as they knew, the sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.
So will it be with us when we make decisive battle with our mental foes. The Divine Love and Divine Wisdom will give us light in all the trial. They will not go down for the whole day. The Divine Love will smile upon our affections, our hill of Gibeon; the Divine Wisdom will rest upon our valley of Ajalon, or valley of the harts, which the name signifies, while we are yearning for that wisdom, as the hart panteth for the water-brooks; and these gracious encouragements will continue until evil lies fully subdued within us, and no enemy of the Lord remains to trouble our Canaan within.
Author: Jonathan Bayley — From Egypt to Canaan (1869)