Scripture: When Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished striking them with a great blow until they were wiped out, and when the remnant that remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, then all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah. Not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel. Joshua 10:20-21 ESV
Observation: Verses 16-28 of chapter 10 present the last scene of Israel’s landslide victory over the five kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. Joshua, learning the five kings have escaped to a cave at Makkedah, directs his soldiers to roll large stones against the cave’s mouth and place guards at its entrance. Then, once the remnant of survivors is devoted to destruction, Joshua and his men return to their base camp for a short respite. At this point, the author inserts into the narrative that Israel did not suffer any loss of lives and that all the remaining nations were speechless (above verses).
So now that the multi-day battle is over, Joshua orders his soldiers to bring the five kings out to him and follows a protocol similar to that of the king of Ai: hanging the five kings on trees until evening and burying their bodies (to avoid desecrating the land). And while they buried the king of Ai under stones, they cast these five kings’ bodies into the cave where they previously hid (vv.22-27). Finally, the author provides a brief epilogue that Joshua and his men also struck down the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho (v.28).
Takeaway: While each of Israel’s conquests under Joshua’s leadership has unique elements that address extenuating circumstances of war, there is also a repetitive military stratagem:
- Scout enemy territory to assess challenges and opportunities.
- Deploy infantry for battle by night to create an element of surprise.
- Leave no survivors and devote their cities to destruction.
- Hang their king on a tree to display their shame and to boost morale; then bury the body before sunset to maintain the sanctity of the land.
As discussed in previous Daily Focus devotions, Ancient Near East warfare warranted such ruthless extermination of the enemy. Still, it’s hard to imagine why a little mercy may not go a long way. Having counseled addicts for the past two decades, I can tell you that most understand the need to utterly destroy their enemy, whether it be drugs, sex, gambling, or any other obsession. And Joshua’s military strategy provides a helpful game plan not only for addicts but for any who struggle with recurring sins. We need to:
- Scout the environments where we succumb to temptations and assess challenges and opportunities.
- Deploy an element of surprise by exposing our struggles to the light through confession—disempowering their hold on us.
- Leave no remnants of temptations—do whatever it takes to eradicate all means (places and resources that fuel acting out).
- Hang and bury the shame and boost morale with a deeper understanding of God’s grace.
This story also points us to Christ’s crucifixion, where:
- He scouted enemy territory for the three-plus years of his adult ministry.
- He deployed himself under the cloak of darkness as he stood trial, preparing himself to defeat the devil in a most unexpected way of dying a sinner’s death.
- He devoted to destruction Satan and his minions (to be cast into the eternal lake of fire, Revelation 20:10).
- Lastly, Christ scorned the shame of being hung on a tree and silenced the enemy by coming out of his cave in his resurrected body, ascending to the right hand of the Father in power and glory (Hebrews 12:2).
Indeed, there is no loss of life for those in Christ because he has silenced our enemy, who seeks to condemn us. And through the sanctifying work of his Holy Spirit, he will ruthlessly destroy the remnant of enemy forces that harass us, leaving them speechless as he prepares us for our eternal home where there is no warfare but only perfect peace.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who has silenced our enemy and brought victory over the penalty and power of sin. Would you please help us to cooperate with your Holy Spirit, who exposes our hidden sins to the light and shows us escape routes to freedom in Christ? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling