The Conquest of Canaan: The Data from Joshua & Judges

This article is part of a series on the conquest of Canaan
  • The book of Joshua and the first few chapters of Judges detail the actual conquest of Canaan.
  • There are specific battles detailed in the first few chapters, the most famous of which are Jericho and Ai.
  • One tribe – the Gibeonites – have the foresight and intelligence to trick the Israelites into making a peace treaty with them.

Two important issues are noteworthy

  • The first part of Joshua details his conquests and ends by saying that “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the LORD had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions.  Then the land had rest from war” (Joshua 11:16-23).
  • Yet the second part says that a lot of the land was still unconquered when Joshua was old and Joshua had to divide the land between the Israelites and let them fight to clear it. (Joshua 13).  Similarly,the first chapter of Judges has the Israaelites struggling to drive out the Canaanites after Joshua’s death.
  • Secondly, certain lands are listed as conquered in the first part of Joshua and all the inhabitants killed, but the second half and the first chapter of Judges designates them as yet to be conquered. Examples are Hebron (Josh. 10:40), Debir (Josh. 10:38), the hill country and the Negev and the western foothills (Josh. 10:40). Judges (1: 9 – 11) details the conquest of those lands after Joshua’s death.

Other points:

  • While the first part of Joshua emphasizes that the land was conquered and every living thing in it killed, the second part and the first chapter of Judges emphasize driving out the Canaanites. In Judges 1, certain cities were listed in which the Israelites had trouble driving out the Canaanites, but it makes no mention of killing them. This is relevant to the previous note that God’s command to the Israelites was to drive out the Canaanites and to destroy them.
  • When the Israelites finally became strong enough, they did not drive out the Canaanites (Judges 1: 27 – 36), (Josh 16:10), (Joshua 17:12-13). Instead, they lived with them and subjected them to forced labor.
  • So, the Israelites disobeyed God and God responded as he had promised. He punished them.

Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” – (Judges 2: 1- 3)

  • This was fair. Remember Numbers 33:55-56
    But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.
  • Stubborn Israelites
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