Chapter 12

1 The two kings whose countries Moses took and disposed of. 7 The one and thirty kings on the other side Jordan which Joshua smote.

1. These are the kings. The writer is about to enter upon a particular account of the distribution of the land among the tribes. He here pauses to give a short summary of the work that has been done. In this summary the accomplishments of Moses are recorded along with those of Joshua. Inspiration points out how God uses many instruments in the carrying forward of His work, and that He is not dependent on any one man. The chapter gives a brief account of the victories of Israel, together with the defeats inflicted upon the Canaanites.

CHAPTER 12 DESCRIBES THE EXTENT OF THE CONQUEST AND SHOWS THE LAND THAT NOW LAY OPEN FOR SETTLEMENT. Verses 1–6 describe the territory to the east of Jordan and the list of kings conquered by Moses, and the remainder of the chapter is occupied with a catalog of those on the west of Jordan that were reduced by Joshua. In this summary we see traced both the course and the end of those who resist God. Both the narrow road and the broad way are pointed out in this lesson. That of Israel was the path of obedience, under divine direction. But the pathway of obedience was not always easy. It often meant going forward in spite of great obstacles. Hesitation would have meant failure and loss. But Israel’s history at this time was marked by patient and steadfast endurance. On the part of the Canaanites, their course was marked by rebellion. They said, “Who is lord over us?” and hardened themselves against God’s will and the revelation of Himself through Israel. They fought it out to the bitter end, learning no lesson and refusing to yield. All through this war of conquest Israel had as their hope a divine inheritance, and all the glory and honor that it implied. As for the Canaanites, they were without God and without hope.

Arnon. This river was the boundary between the kingdoms of Sihon and Moab (Num. 21:13), and formed the southern boundary of Israel to the east of Jordan. The river rises in the mountains of what is now the Kingdom of Jordan and enters the Dead Sea at about the midpoint of its eastern side. It forms a deep gorge, both banks of which were fortified in the period of Joshua.

Mount Hermon. This mountain is a short distance south and a little west of Damascus. The territory between Mt. Hermon and the Arnon comprised the deep valley of the Jordan and the plateau to the east, whose borders are lost in the eastern desert.

All the plain on the east. Literally, “all the Arabah eastward.” The Arabah is the entire deep rift extending south from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan valley as far as the Gulf of Aqabah. However, this description would include only the area south as far as the river Arnon and east of the river Jordan.

2. Aroer. This city stood on the north bank of the river Arnon and was later allotted to the tribe of Reuben (ch. 13:9, 16).

Gilead. This territory included the highland grazing ground east of the Jordan from the river Yarmuk to the river Arnon. The river Jabbok divided it in two. Sihon ruled the half of Gilead south of the river Jabbok.

3. Plain. Heb. arabah, the depression through which the Jordan flows (see on chs. 11:2; 12:1). Beth-jeshimoth, literally, the “house of desolation,” was about 5 mi. east of the Jordan in a desert section near the Dead Sea called Jeshimon, or the “waste” district.

From the south. Rather, “southward,” that is, from Beth-jeshimoth, to below Ash-doth-pisgah, literally, “the ravines of Pisgah.” The author here points out that the Arabah turns southward, east of the Dead Sea, in the area below the ravines of the mountains. Pisgah was a familiar landmark—the place where Moses went to view Canaan. This verse concludes the description of the extent of Sihon’s kingdom.

4. Bashan. An area east of the Sea of Chinnereth and extending south from the Pharpar River to the Yarmuk, the border of Gilead. Og also ruled the northern half of the Gilead to the Jabbok River.

Giants. Heb. rephaХim. The derivation of this word is uncertain. The Rephaim were the aboriginal inhabitants of Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Canaan. Og was one of the last of this race. Other remnants lived around Hebron and were known as Anakim (see on Gen. 14:5).

Ashtaroth. The Hebrew plural for Ashtaroth (Astarte), a goddess of sex and war. The city was a center of Astarte worship in the kingdom of Og, and has been identified as Tell ФAshtarah, situated about 20 mi. (32.2 km.) east of the Sea of Galilee. It was one of Og’s royal cities.

Edrei. One of Og’s royal cities on the plateau southeast of the Sea of Galilee. It was the place where Og was slain by the Israelites (Num. 21:33–35; Deut. 3:1–3). The king dwelt in both Edrei and Ashtarot probably using one city for his summer home and the other for his winter home.

5. Salcah. Og ruled as far north as Mt. Hermon and as far east as Salcah, which was in the mountains on the far east border of his kingdom.

Geshurites. An Aramaean tribe living on Og’s western border, east of the Sea of Galilee. They were not expelled by the Israelites (ch. 13:13), and continued their independence until the time of David.

Maachathites. A tribe living immediately north of the Geshurites, to the east of Lake Huleh and overlooking its marshes. Their principal town was Abel-beth-maachah, identified with the mound Tell Abil. The city was prominent in the days of David (see 2 Sam. 20:14–22). Israel did not expel the Maachathites, who continued to dwell there (Joshua 13:13). Og’s kingdom extended from Mt. Hermon in the north to the river Jabbok on the south, and from Salcah in the extreme east to the Geshurites and Maachathites in the west, but did not include any part of the Arabah.

7. These are the kings. Here begins an enumeration of the kings of the country to the west of Jordan whom Joshua smote. The details of their slaughter were recorded in earlier chapters.

8. In the mountains. This verse, in striking contrast, describes the general features of the country of Palestine with its rich variety of soils. It was the land “flowing with milk and honey” that God appointed for Israel. Today, by contrast, the land, except where irrigated, is one of the most barren countries.

Hittites. These were the descendants of Canaan, the wayward son of Ham (Gen. 9:25; see on ch. 10:15). Deut. 7:1 lists seven nations that were to be cast out. This verse mentions only six, the Girgashites being omitted. It has been suggested that the Girgashites had by now either been incorporated with some of these other nations or, according to the tradition of the Jews, had withdrawn to Africa upon the approach of Israel under Joshua, leaving their country to be possessed by Israel. The Girgashites inhabited the country to the north of the lake Gennesaret, or Galilee, and are supposed to have migrated in a body on the approach of the Israelites.

9. King of Jericho. Here and in the following verses the vanquished kings are enumerated, generally in the order in which they were conquered. There are 31 of them, which, together with the 2 on the east side of the Jordan, make a total list of 33. A large proportion of these kings have already been mentioned in previous chapters. The most important of the new names are Geder, Hormah, Arad, and Adullam, all belonging to the southern league.

13. Geder. Probably the same as Gedor (1 Chron. 4:39), a town in southern Simeon.

14. Hormah. The name, meaning “devoted to destruction,” was given the city after it had incurred this fate. Its earlier name was Zephath (Judges 1:17). Its site is unknown, but is believed to have been not far from Beersheba. We read of Hormah in Moses’ time (Num. 14:45; Deut. 1:44). It was the place to which the Israelites were driven by the Amalekites and the Canaanites, when, after the rebellion at Kadesh on the report of the spies, the Israelites obstinately persisted in attacking the inhabitants in spite of Moses’ emphatic warning (Num. 14:40–45).

Arad. This place is mentioned as destroyed by Moses in punishment for an unprovoked attack made upon the Israelites when they approached that neighborhood (Num. 21:1–3). The spot is easily identified. On a plateau 17 mi. (28 km.) south by east of Hebron, and the same east of Beersheba, is an eminence, with remains of a reservoir and ancient pottery upon it, called TellРФAraЖd. It likely represents the site of the city then destroyed.

15. Adullam. A town southwest of Jerusalem, about halfway between it and Lachish, now known as Khirbet eshРSheikh MadhkuЖr. It is best known for its cave, in which David found refuge (1 Sam. 22:1).

16. Beth-el. Bethel was doubtless taken during this campaign, though the details of the conquest are not given.

17. Tappuah. Identified with Sheikh Abuµ Zarad, 7 7/8 mi. (12.6 km.) south-southwest of Shechem. Lasharon may be a city unidentified, or may be the Plain of Sharon. Aphek is generally believed to be the Antipatris of the NT (Acts 23:31), 29 mi. (46.6 km.) from Jerusalem on the road to Caesarea.

21. Taanach. Several towns connected with the northern league, not previously mentioned, are next listed. Among them are two frequently named together, Taanach and Megiddo. Megiddo is in the great plain of Jezreel, whereas Taanach is only a short distance to the southeast, on the border of the plain. The site of Megiddo is now called Tell elРMutesellim. Its strategic location gave it historic importance. Taanach is now called Tell TaФannak.

22. Kedesh. Also called “Kedesh in Galilee” (Joshua 20:7). This is thought to be a fortified Canaanite hill center northwest of the former Lake Huleh. It was the home of Barak, the general under Deborah who fought Sisera, and the place where he assembled his troops on that occasion (Judges 4:6, 9, 10).

Jokneam. Another town not previously named, on a tributary of the brook Kishon about 14 mi. (23 km.) from the Carmel promontory and commanding the pass across the ridge. It is now known as Tell QeimuЖn.

23. Nations of Gilgal. This does not refer to the camp in the Jordan valley, but probably to a place now known as JiljuЖlieh in the Plain of Sharon, 14 mi. (22.5 km.) northeast of Joppa. This seems to have been the headquarters of certain mixed and nomadic tribes, here called“nations.”

24. Tirzah. A city highly celebrated in later Jewish history as the capital of Jeroboam and his successors. From the beauty of its situation it was taken by poets as the type of all that is lovely. It has been tentatively identified as Tell elРFaЖrФah, “mound of the elevated ridge,” about 7 mi. (11 km.) northeast of Nablus. The existence of so many kings in so small a territory shows that their kingdoms must have been comparatively small. Many kings in ancient times ruled over a territory no larger than that represented by a village or a town. These towns were independent of one another, and each had its own local chief.