This chapter may be labeled as an official summary – sort of like a public record – of the whole territory that was conquered by Moses and by Joshua. It does not necessarily contain any new information that we have not read before – except that certain cities and their rulers are specified by name, which have previously been merely included in more general statements of Joshua’s wars.
The first part of this chapter describes the land that Israel – under Moses’ leadership – took possession of on the eastern side of the Jordan River. These things were written down once more, even though the Israelites had experienced many great works of God since that time; for fresh mercies must not drown the remembrance of former ones. The southern end of this land on the east side of the Jordan contained the territory of Sihon, the king of the Amorites; and it extended from Aroer (on the Arnon River) northward into Gilead, to the Jabbok River. The northern part of Israel’s eastern territory, which had been taken from King Og of Bashan, began where the southern section ended; and it contained the rest of Gilead, and the tablelands of Bashan – as far northward as Mount Hermon.
Verse 6 reminds us that Moses had given this eastern territory to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, as well as to half the tribe of Manasseh (Num. 32). Moses, in his lifetime, gave to one part of Israel a very rich and fruitful country; but it was on the outside of the boundary of the Promised Land. However, Joshua gave all Israel the holy land – the mountain of God’s sanctuary – within the boundaries of the Jordan River!
This was a picture or a representation of how the law conferred some external and temporal blessings – which were promises of good things to come – upon a few members of God’s spiritual Israel. But our Lord Jesus, Who is the true Joshua, has provided spiritual blessings – the privileges of the sanctuary, and the heavenly Canaan – for all the children of promise! The triumphs and grants of the law were glorious, but those of the Gospel far exceed them!
In verses 7-24, we have details concerning the western inheritance of Israel; this land was the true Land of Promise. First, we have a description of the boundaries of the territory that was conquered under Joshua’s leadership. It included all the land that lay between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Jordan River on the east, and between Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon in the north and Mount Halak in the south (which was on the border of Seir, the land of the Edomites). This beautiful land was stocked with many different types of terrain and scenery. There were mountains or hills which abounded in both beauty and fruitful productions; there were valleys – not mossy or boggy – but “covered with corn” (Ps. 65:13). There were plains, and there were springs to water them; and there were even wildernesses – that is, forests that were not as thickly inhabited as some of the other areas, but still having towns and houses in them. It took about seven years for the Israelites to subdue all these lands from the hands of the nations that possessed them.
This second part of the chapter also provides us with a list of the kings that were conquered and subdued by the sword of Israel – 31 in all, and seemingly in the order in which Israel took possession of them. As we see how the vengeance of a righteous God was inflicted on all these kings and their subjects for their wickedness, it should cause us to dread and hate sin. But this list also goes to show us how good God was to Israel, in giving them victory over all these kings and kingdoms. The fact that this fruitful land was bestowed upon His chosen people should fill our hearts with hope and confidence in His mercy, as well as with humble gratitude. How faithful God was to His promise! And His people sung this fact in after-ages, when they were recounting the wonders of His love in the slaying of mighty kings, and in the giving of their lands for a heritage to His chosen ones (Ps. 135:10-12).
But what are all the splendid victories of Joshua, when they are compared with the victories of our Lord Jesus? What is the enjoyment even of Canaan, when it is compared with the everlasting mansions which the Son of God has prepared for His people? Lord Jesus, give us grace to see and know Your preeminence in all things! (Col. 1:13)
Lord, cause us to see Your salvation as we behold our Jesus – not only conquering 31 of our spiritual enemies, but even crushing all our enemies under His feet! May this encourage us to engage anew, with increasing vigor, under Jesus’ banner! Cause us to put on the whole armor of God; and enable us to endure hardness as a badge of our holy calling, as a good soldier of Jesus. Give us grace to keep ourselves separate from the people and customs of the Canaan of this world. May we always follow the Lamb wherever He goes. Blessed Jesus! Arm us with Your strength, for then we shall be more than conquerors through You – the Lord our righteousness. Amen.
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illustration from a book by William Howse Groser, 1874