Notes & Commentary:
Ver 1. Adonisedec means, “Lord of justice,” as Melchisedec denotes “the king of justice;” perhaps Salem was originally styled Zedec. (Masius) — This king had probably some control over the neighbouring cities. (Menochius) — He was also in the greatest danger; and not daring to attack the Israelites, he resolves to fall upon the Gabaonites unawares, that other cities might be deterred from following their example. — Confederates. Hebrew, “and were among them,” which may signify either that the Israelites were to dwell in the towns belonging to the Gabaonites, or that the latter should live along with them, as one and the same people, following the same religion, and bound together by the same interests.
Ver. 2. Cities. Yet we read not of its king, chap. ix. 11. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “It was like a royal metropolis.” (Haydock) — Valiant. Prudence therefore, and not fear, had influenced them to take this step.
Ver. 3. Hebron was about 24 miles south of Jerusalem, and Jerimoth 16. Lachis was a very famous city, (4 Kings xiv., and xviii. 14,) about nine miles south of Eleutheropolis, which was itself situated about 20,000 paces towards the south of Jerusalem; (Itin. Anton.) though some assert it was 22 or 32 miles distant. Eusebius and St. Jerome generally fix the situation of places by this city. Eglon was twelve miles to the eastward of it. The Septuagint read Odollam, (Calmet) which was either the same city, (Eusebius) or one probably near it, chap. xii. 12, 5, and ver. 35, 9.
Ver. 5. Amorrhites is a generical term, as well as Chanaanite, to denote the people of the country. The other kings did not come to the assistance (Calmet) of these five, ver. 40. (Haydock) — Yet the people of Gabaon might suspect the worst, or exaggerate, in order to make Josue come with greater expedition. He was then at Galgal, above twenty miles distant, and set off the next night, coming unexpectedly upon the confederate kings early in the morning, ver. 9.
Ver. 10. Troubled them. Septuagint, “filled them with consternation;” so that they knew not what to do, Exodus xxiii. 17. — Bethoron. There were two cities of this name in the tribe of Ephraim, rebuilt by Sara, 1 Paralipomenon vii.. 24. The lower was twelve miles from Jerusalem. Maceda was eight from Eleutheropolis to the east, as Azeca was about the same distance west of Jerusalem, and not far from Soco, 1 Kings xvii. 1. Thus Josue proceeded westward to Gabaon and Bethoron, where he defeated the confederates, and pursued them, as they fled to their respective cities in the south, on the road between Jerusalem and the country of the Philistines, as far as Maceda. (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Azeca, for the space of twelve miles. — Hailstones, of an uncommon size, accompanied with thunder and lightning, Habacuc iii. 11. (Josephus, [Antiquities?] v. 1.) (Calmet) (Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 6.) — Of the same nature was the seventh plague of Egypt, Exodus ix. 23. (Menochius) — Real stones may very probably have been hurled against the enemy, by means of some hurricane or vulcano, which God directed against the Chanaanites. Several instances of showers of stones are recorded in history. (Calmet, Dissert.) — Even quantities of stone and earth, sufficient to form new islands, have been thus thrown up. (Montfaucon.) — The isle of Santorin, in the Archipelago, appeared in 1707.
Ver. 12. Them. This may be considered as a canticle of victory, containing a fervent prayer, which was presently followed with the desired effect. — Aialon. Hebrew, “Sun, in Gabaon, be silent; (move not) and thou, moon, in the valley of Aialon,” or “of the wood,” which was probably not far from Gabaon. Josue had pursued the enemy at mid-day, to the west of that city, when turning round, he addressed this wonderful command to the sun. It is supposed that the moon appeared at the same time. But the meaning may only be, that the sun and the course of the stars should be interrupted for a time. (Calmet) — The sun and the moon stood still in their habitation, Hebrews iii. 11. (Menochius) — Many have called in question this miracle, with Maimonides, or have devised various means to explain it away, by having recourse to a parhelion or reflection of the sun by a cloud, or to a light which was reverberated by the mountains, after the sun was set, &c. (Prœdam iv. 6.; Spinosa; Grotius; Le Clerc) — But if these authors believe the Scriptures, they may spare themselves the trouble of devising such improbable explanations, as this fact is constantly represented as a most striking miracle. If St. Paul (Hebrews xi. 30,) make no mention of it, he did not engage to specify every miracle that had occurred. He does not so much as mention Josue, nor the passage of the Jordan, &c., so that it is a matter of surprise that Grotius should adduce this negative argument, to disprove the reality of the miracle. (Calmet) — The pretended impossibility of it, or the inconvenience arising to the fatigued soldiers from the long continuance of the day, will make but small impression upon those who consider, that God was the chief agent; and that he who made all out of nothing, might easily stop the whole machinery of the world for a time, and afterwards put it in motion again, without causing any derangement in the different parts. (Calmet) — It is not material whether the sun turn round the earth, or the contrary. (Haydock) — The Hebrews generally supposed that the earth was immovable; and on this idea Josue addresses the sun. Philosophers have devised various intricate systems: but the Scripture is expressed in words suitable to the conceptions of the people. The exterior effect would be the same, whether the sun or the earth stood still. Pagan authors have not mentioned this miracle, because none of the works of that age have come down to us. We find, however, that they acknowledged a power in magic capable of effecting such a change.
Cessavere vices rerum dilataque longā,
Hęsit nocte dies: legi non paruit ęther,
Torpuit & pręceps audito carmine mundus. (Lucan, Phars. vi.)
See Homer, Odyssey xii. 382., and xxiii. 242.
This miracle would not render Josue superior to Moses, as some have argued. For all miracles are equally impossible to man, and equally easy to God: the greatness of a miracle is not a proof of greater sanctity. (Calmet) — Aialon lay to the south-west of Gabaon. (Haydock) — Josue ordered the moon to stop, as a necessary consequence of the sun’s standing still. God condescended to grant his request. (Worthington)
Ver. 13. The book of the just. In Hebrew Sepher hayashar; an ancient book long since lost. (Challoner) — It was probably of the same nature with that of the wars of the Lord, (Numbers xxi. 4,) containing an account of the most memorable occurrences which concerned the people of Israel, the just, or Ischuron, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 5. Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 2,) says, such “records were kept in the archives of the temple.” They were drawn up by people of character. The quotations inserted are in a poetical style, as the book might contain various canticles, though the rest was written in prose. See 2 Kings i. 18. It might appear unnecessary for Josue to appeal to this work, as the fact in question was known to all. (Calmet) — But too great precaution could not be taken to prevent the danger of people calling in question the reality of the miracle. If the book of the just was a more detailed history of facts, out of which this work of Josue has been compiled, as Theodoret supposes, the author might very well remit the more inquisitive reader to that authentic source. (Haydock) — Midst. It was then almost noon. (Calmet) — Josue was nevertheless afraid lest the day should not allow them time to destroy their fleeing enemies completely. (Haydock) — If the evening had been at hand, he would have said, return sun towards Gabaon, as it would have been on the west of his army. The battle had begun early in the morning, and the pursuit had lasted perhaps four or five hours. (Calmet) — Day. Hebrew, “about a whole day.” Many think that a day here comprises 24 hours; and as the sun had been above the horizon six hours, and continued other six, it must have been visible for the space of 36 hours, as the Jews believe, and as it is specified in St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho. The author of Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 5, says, Was not the sun stopped in his anger, and one day made as two? that is, 24 hour long, allowing 12 unequal ones to form a day, according to the reckoning of those times. Others suppose that the day of Josue might consist of 18 (Calmet) or of 48 hours. But how would the soldiers be able to support such a fatigue? They had been marching all the preceding night from Galgal. (Haydock) — If they had stopped to take refreshment, their enemies would have escaped. Hence some of the Fathers imagine, that God enabled his people to pursue them without taking any food. (St. Jerome, contra Jov. ii.) They might, however, take some along with them, as it was then customary; and eat as they pursued, whenever they could find an opportunity. Josue had given no prohibition; and Jonathan observed that his father, Saul, had troubled Israel, by following a different plan, 1 Kings xiv. 24. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Long. This word is not found in Hebrew, “and there was no day like that, before it, or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto,” &c. But God had often wrought miracles before, at the prayer of his servants. The difference between this day and all others, must be therefore in the length, or in the stopping of the heavenly bodies. (Haydock) — The long day which the prayer of Ezechias procured, (4 Kings xx., and Isaias xxxviii.) consisted of 32 hours; or, supposing that the retrograde motion of the sun was instantaneous on the dial, it might only be 22 hours in length. (Calmet) — But if the day of Ezechias had been even longer, the words of this text may be verified, that neither in times past, nor while the author lived, had any such day been known. See Amama, p. 383. (Haydock) — Obeying. God is ready to grant the requests of his servants, Isaias lviii. 9. “We remark something still stronger, in the power which he has given to priests, to consecrate the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the eucharist.” (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Galgal. Masius supposes, that here the quotation from the book of the just terminates. The Roman and Alexandrian Septuagint place this verse at the end of the chapter. (Calmet) — Grabe has it in both places with a star, to shew that it is taken from Theodotion. (Haydock) — In effect, Josue did not return to his camp till he had completed the business of the day, by destroying the five kings. After which, he proceeded to conquer that part of the country. He might have designed to return, (Calmet) and even have begun his march, (Du Hamel) when he was diverted from proceeding, by the news that the kings had been discovered. So we often say, that a person does what he is on the point of doing. See Genesis xxxvii. 21., and Numbers xxxiv. 25.
Ver. 17. City, or territory. (Calmet) — The kings had sought their own safety in flight, leaving their people to make their escape as well as they could. But their cowardly behaviour only brought upon them a more dishonourable death. Josue and some of the forces stopped in the environs of Maceda, while the rest pursued after the fugitives, and slew all that had not strength to enter the fenced cities. (Haydock) — Then all the army assembled round their leader, took Maceda, and completed the victory of that most memorable day, by the ignominious death of the five kings. (Calmet) — God permitted some to escape, lest the land should be overrun with wild beasts; (Exodus xxiii. 29,) and to instruct us that his children must suffer tribulation, to prevent the growth of vice. (Worthington)
Ver. 21. No man, (nullus.) Some supply canis, “dog,” alluding to the proverbial expression, Exodus xi. 7. (Masius, &c.) — Septuagint, “not one of the Israelites moved his tongue.” (Calmet) — All was profound silence, in expectation of what would be determined respecting the unfortunate kings. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Feet, as Moses had foretold, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 29. The conduct of Josue would appear cruel, if we did not reflect that he was only the executioner of the divine justice, which was pleased thus to punish these proud and impious princes, that others might not imitate their example.
Ver. 27. Down. (Deuteronomy xxi.) The victorious army had returned some time before the evening, and had time to take the city of Maceda; though some, without reason, believe that this took place the day following.
Ver. 28. Remains of inhabitants. (Calmet) — The king was gibbeted and stoned. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Lebna, not far from Eleutheropolis. From before this city Sennacherib dispatched his menacing order to Ezechias, 4 Kings xix. 8. (Calmet)
Ver. 32. Lachis was still farther south. Josue took it the second day of the siege.
Ver. 33. Gazer, near Azotus, in the country of the Philistines. It is not said that Josue took this city. It was given long after to Solomon by the king of Egypt, 3 Kings ix. 15., and Josue xvi. 10. (Calmet)
Ver. 37. The king, viz., the new king, who succeeded him that was slain, ver. 26. (Challoner) — Caleb afterwards took Hebron, which, it seems, the Chanaanites had seized again and fortified, while Josue was conquering other parts of the country. He could not leave garrisons in all the cities which he took, and hence he set many of them on fire. After the strength of the country was broken, he knew that the Israelites might easily subdue the few isolated cities which he was forced to leave behind. But they proved so negligent, that many places were left in the possession of the Chanaanites, which proved a stumbling block to God’s people.
Ver. 38. Dabir, which was formerly called Cariath sepher, “the city of the book,” (chap. xv. 15,) or of Senna, (chap. xv. 45,) near Hebron. It was taken again by Othoniel and Caleb.
Ver. 40. Hills of Judea. — South of the promised land. — Plain. Hebrew, Sephela, a flat country near Eleutheropolis. (St. Jerome in Abd. i. 19; 1 Machabees xii. 38.) — Asedoth, “of the springs.” — Remains. God ordered these people to be utterly destroyed, in punishment of their manifold abominations; and that they might not draw the Israelites into the like sins. (Challoner)
Ver. 41. Gaza. These cities were on the southern limits of the land of Chanaan, and of the Philistines. — Gosen, or Gessen, where the Hebrews had formerly dwelt. It was then very fertile, chap. xiii. 3. The territory of Juda extended as far as the Nile; (Calmet) or this country may have resembled the country of Gessen, Genesis xlvi. (Menochius) — It seems indeed rather wonderful, that if this was a part of the promised land, God should order his people to leave it, as it were, to the Egyptians; and after they had occupied another part of the country, should seize it again. But he might have secret reasons for this order. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Five kings war against Gabaon. Josue defeateth them: many are slain with hail-stones. At the prayer of Josue, the sun and moon stand still the space of one day. The five kings are hanged. Divers cities are taken.
1 When *Adonisedec, king of Jerusalem, had heard these things, to wit, that Josue had taken Hai, and had destroyed it, (for as he had done to Jericho and the king thereof, so did he to Hai and its king) and that the Gabaonites were gone over to Israel, and were their confederates,
2 He was exceedingly afraid. For Gabaon was a great city, and one of the royal cities, and greater than the town of Hai, and all its fighting men were most valiant.
3 Therefore Adonisedec, king of Jerusalem, sent to Oham, king of Hebron, and to Pharam, king of Jerimoth, and to Japhia, king of Lachis, and to Dabir, king of Eglon, saying:
4 Come up to me, and bring help, that we may take Gabaon, because it hath gone over to Josue, and to the children of Israel.
5 So the five kings of the Amorrhites being assembled together, went up: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jerimoth, the king of Lachis, the king of Eglon, they and their armies, and camped about Gabaon, laying siege to it.
6 But the inhabitants of the city of Gabaon, which was besieged, sent to Josue, who then abode in the camp at Galgal, and said to him: Withdraw not thy hands from helping thy servants: come up quickly, and save us, and bring us succour: for all the kings of the Amorrhites, who dwell in the mountains, are gathered together against us.
7 And Josue went up from Galgal, and all the army of the warriors with him, most valiant men.
8 But the Lord said to Josue: Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thy hands: none of them shall be able to stand against thee.
9 So Josue going up from Galgal all the night, came upon them suddenly.
10 *And the Lord troubled them, at the sight of Israel: and he slew them with a great slaughter, in Gabaon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent to Bethoron, and cut them off all the way to Azeca and Maceda.
11 And when they were fleeing from the children of Israel, and were in the descent of Bethoron, the Lord cast down upon them great stones from heaven as far as Azeca: and many more were killed with the hail-stones than were slain by the swords of the children of Israel.
12 Then Josue spoke to the Lord, in the day that he delivered the Amorrhite in the sight of the children of Israel, and he said before them: Move not, O sun, toward Gabaon, nor thou, O moon, toward the valley of Aialon.
13 And the *sun and the moon stood still, till the people revenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of the just? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down the space of one day.
14 There was not before, nor after, so long a day, the Lord obeying the voice of a man, and fighting for Israel.
15 And Josue returned, with all Israel, into the camp of Galgal.
16 For the five kings were fled, and had hid themselves in a cave of the city of Maceda.
17 And it was told Josue, that the five kings were found hid in a cave of the city of Maceda.
18 And he commanded them that were with him, saying: Roll great stones to the mouth of the cave, and set careful men, to keep them shut up:
19 And stay you not, but pursue after the enemies, and kill all the hindermost of them as they flee, and do not suffer them whom the Lord God hath delivered into your hands, to shelter themselves in their cities.
20 So the enemies being slain with a great slaughter, and almost utterly consumed, they that were able to escape from Israel, entered into fenced cities.
21 And all the army returned to Josue, in Maceda, where the camp then was, in good health, and without the loss of any one: and no man durst move his tongue against the children of Israel.
22 And Josue gave orders, saying: Open the mouth of the cave, and bring forth to me the five kings that lie hid therein.
23 And the ministers did as they were commanded: and they brought out to him the five kings out of the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jerimoth, the king of Lachis, the king of Eglon.
24 And when they were brought out to him, he called all the men of Israel, and said to the chiefs of the army that were with him: Go, and set your feet on the necks of these kings. And when they had gone, and put their feet upon the necks of them lying under them,
25 He said again to them: Fear not, neither be ye dismayed, take courage, and be strong: for so will the Lord do to all your enemies, against whom you fight.
26 And Josue struck, and slew them, and hanged them upon five gibbets; and they hung until the evening.
27 *And when the sun was down, he commanded the soldiers to take them down from the gibbets. And after they were taken down, they cast them into the cave, where they had lain hid, and put great stones at the mouth thereof, which remain until this day.
28 The same day Josue took Maceda, and destroyed it with the edge of the sword, and killed the king and all the inhabitants thereof: he left not in it the least remains. And he did to the king of Maceda, as he had done to the king of Jericho.
29 And he passed from Maceda with all Israel to Lebna, and fought against it:
30 And the Lord delivered it with the king thereof into the hands of Israel: and they destroyed the city with the edge of the sword, and all the inhabitants thereof. They left not in it any remains. And they did to the king of Lebna, *as they had done to the king of Jericho.
31 From Lebna he passed unto Lachis, with all Israel: and investing it with his army, besieged it.
32 And the Lord delivered Lachis into the hands of Israel, and he took it the following day, and put it to the sword, and every soul that was in it, as he had done to Lebna.
33 At that time Horam, king of Gazer, came up to succour Lachis: and Josue slew him with all his people, so as to leave none alive.
34 And he passed from Lachis to Eglon, and surrounded it,
35 And took it the same day: and put to the sword all the souls that were in it, according to all that he had done to Lachis.
36 He went up also with all Israel from Eglon to Hebron, and fought against it:
37 Took it, and destroyed it with the edge of the sword: the king also thereof, and all the towns of that country, and all the souls that dwelt in it: he left not therein any remains: as he had done to Eglon, so did he also to Hebron, putting to the sword all that he found in it.
38 Returning from thence to Dabir,
39 He took it, and destroyed it: the king also thereofm and all the towns round about, he destroyed with the edge of the sword: he left not in it any remains: as he had done to Hebron and Lebna, and to their kings, so did he to Dabir, and to the king thereof.
40 So Josue conquered all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the plain, and of Asedoth, with their kings: he left not any remains therein, but slew all that breathed, as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded him.
41 From Cades-barne even to Gaza. All the land of Gosen even to Gabaon,
42 And all their kings, and their lands he took and wasted at one onset: for the Lord the God of Israel fought for him.
43 And he returned with all Israel to the place of the camp in Galgal.
1: Year of the World 2553.
10: 1 Kings vii. 10.
13: Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 5.; Isaias xxviii. 21.
27: Deuteronomy xxi. 23.
30: Josue vi. 2.