Taking the Whole Land, Including the Anakites!


Joshua 11 – 19

After 400 years of being away from the land of Canaan which God had promised to Abraham, and his son Isaac, and his son Jacob, and after Jacob had then moved his family to Egypt to escape starvation in the land of Canaan, a move that seemed right at the time for his son Joseph was second-in-command of the land of Egypt then, but that move ended up problematical for his descendants were then made their slaves by the Egyptians, a period of suffering which came to an end only when YHWH God had Moses lead His people out of Egypt and back to the Promised Land of Canaan, a move that should have taken a few weeks to achieve but instead took forty years to accomplish because of sinful fear by some of the Israelites who were afraid to enter Canaan due to what they believed were the presence of “giants in the land”, the Israelites, by now under the command of Moses’ younger associate Joshua, finally entered into the Promised Land, first conquering the gateway cities of Jericho and Ai, and then heading west and south to take over the southern half of the land. We read to that spot last week.

So, Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal. (Joshua 10:40-43)

Image – MAP – Joshua – Southern Campaign

Here is a map outlining the process of the campaign, which, by the way, from the time of the crossing of the Jordan River near Gilgal seems to have taken about one year to complete. Please note that just west of Gilgal and north of Jerusalem lies the unmarked town of Timnath Serah which we will mention later in the sermon, as well as Hebron, a city in the south that we will also return to. With the southern campaign completed – it involved the conquest of 16 different Amorite/Canaanite kingdoms – the soldiers of Israel returned to their base camp at Gilgal, but soon realized that a coalition of 15 northern kingdoms had arisen who were gathering together to attack Israel. When the kings in the north had learned that Joshua had completely conquered all the kings in the south, they gathered their armies together to fight against Israel. According to Josephus, a 1st Century Jewish historian, the northern armies were comprised of 300,000 foot-soldiers, 10,000 cavalrymen, and 20,000 chariot riders, with their horses giving them the latest in military technology at that time. Military strategists estimate that a solder on horseback was worth dozens of foot soldiers on the ground. Now, having heard about that coalition of northern kingdoms gathering together, Joshua and the Israelites did not wait for the enemy to come to them, deciding instead to do a sneak attack, moving north on a five-day journey from their base at Gilgal, past the Sea of Galilee, going north of Chinnereth (a place which became well-known later when Jesus preached his famous Sermon on the Mount there), and ending up at the Waters of Merom where they attacked the coalition of northern kingdoms.

When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots — a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel. (Joshua 11:1-5)

Image – MAP – Joshua – Northern Campaign

So, at the Waters of Merom, the Israelites caught the northern coalition army napping and they attacked. The Canaanites fled with the Israelites chasing them north to Tyre and Misrephoth Maim, and on to Greater Sidon, and then east to the Valley of Mizpah, before eventually turning around and going to the hub city of Hazor which they burned to the ground. With a viciousness that sounds horrific to our modern ears, but with a thoroughness that involved God wanting the Israelites to eradicate everything and anyone that would not worship or serve Him, Joshua killed every enemy soldier, crippling their horses and burning their chariots.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.” So, Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots. At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself. Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds — except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. So, Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses. (Joshua 11:6-20)

Notice how the Gibeonites in the south were mentioned because they “had made a treaty of peace with the Israelites”. All Canaanites were granted mercy if they submitted to the Lord, but if they did not, the Israelites “took them all in battle”. Verse 20 says that “the Lord himself hardened their hearts” but the fuller story in the Old Testament is that God gave the Canaanites free will to choose Him or reject Him. God did not force them to believe; it was their own personal choice. We often complain about war in the Old Testament and say that God must be merciless, but people such as Rahab the prostitute in Jericho, and the Gibeonites, as well as many other individual Canaanites who are mentioned in the Book of Joshua as having become followers of YHWH God, with each of them when they chose to repent and serve and worship God, they were spared troubles and destruction for doing so. Those Canaanites who were destroyed had that happen only because of their pride and defiance to God. Applying that spiritual principle to our modern day, the delay in the second coming of Jesus Christ is simply because

God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God is gracious, always giving people a chance to turn to Him in faith and obedience. At the time of Joshua, God was establishing His kingdom on earth. This was spiritual warfare. It must have been an exhausting, yet exhilarating time, as indeed all wars are, exhausting due to the difficulty of the situation, and exhilarating because the Israelites knew that YHWH God was with them, and that they would not lose. That was a fearful time, indeed, but the Bible mentions only one people group of which the Israelites were actually afraid. Not, the Egyptians (their former slave masters), or the Assyrians, or the Babylonians (their later rulers), nor any of the 31 kingdoms within the land of Canaan, but only one group of people who seemed to live interspersed throughout the land: the Anakites. In the Book of Numbers it is stated that they were descendants of the ancient Nephilim from the time of Noah’s flood, a people who were tall and who looked like “giants” in the eyes of the shorter Israelites. Back in Numbers 13, some 45 years before the Israelites finally took over the entire Promised Land, Moses sent out a reconnaissance team to spy out the land before the rest of the Israelites would attempt to enter the land. Here is what transpired:

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.” So, at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. (Numbers 13:1-3)

This spying out of the land ahead of everyone going into it seemed like a good idea at the time. So, from among the 12 representative spies, one from each of the 12 tribes of Israel, were two men that I want to draw our attention to:

From the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh (Numbers 13:6)


     From the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun (Numbers 13:8)

This Hoshea was renamed by Moses as Joshua, the same Joshua who ended up leading the Israelites into the Promised Land. Now, the reason Moses changed his name, Hoshea to Joshua was that the name Hoshea means, “God saves” but Moses and YHWH both wanted the Israelites to understand who it was that would be saving them, not just any old god, but only YHWH God, so

Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua. (Numbers 13:16)

Joshua means, “YHWH saves”. Not, just Hoshea, “God saves”, but Joshua, “YHWH saves”. Why the reason for this name change? The Israelites had been polytheists when they were slaves in Egypt, worshipping numerous of the gods of the Egyptian pantheon of gods. Moses knew that the Israelites would be entering into a Canaan, a place of similar polytheism, and so he wanted them to know that it wouldn’t be good enough for them to simply believe in any god of their choosing, but only YHWH God. That is why the first two of God’s Ten Commandments which He spoke to the Israelites once they had left Egypt and before they had entered Canaan were:

  1. “You shall have no other gods before me”, and
  2. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for, I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations, of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:3-6)

YHWH, God Almighty would be the only one saving Israel, and He wanted to be the only God worshipped in the land. That is why Hoshea’s name was changed to Joshua. The Israelites would be fighting to purge the land of idolatry, and to establish and glorify the Lord – the one true God. Similarly with us Christians, like Israel, we seek to glorify the one true God, and to emphasize the uniqueness of His son, the one true Savior, Jesus Christ, by quoting Jesus’ words when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

In any case, with 10 of the 12 spies who went into the land, this happened:

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” (Numbers 13:27-33)

Only Caleb, with Joshua’s support, gave a contrary report, one urging the Israelites to trust YHWH God and His promise to go with them if they would only enter the land. He would protect them and give them success, Caleb and Joshua believed. Moses was bitterly disappointed with the other 10 spies, and so he said,

Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. (Numbers 14:30)

And so those 10 spies didn’t make it into the Promised Land, all because they chose to fear the Anakites, the “giants in the land”, rather than to trust in God and to go in and take the land which God had promised to them. Now, concerning the Anakites, alone of all the people groups in the land of Canaan, attention is given to them at the very end of the retelling of the taking of the Promised Land.

At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive. 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 11:21-23)

Why were the Anakites so mentioned? Because of the fear of them that had gripped people’s minds. Guess what the Israelites discovered when they went up against the “giants in the land”, the Anakites? They weren’t that fearful, after all. They certainly were not “giants”, except in the vivid imaginations of the 10 fearful spies who had reported to Moses about their presence in the land. That is why the Anakites – alone of all the people groups in the land – are mentioned in this final tallying up of the retaking of the land. That earlier report from the 10 spies that “we can’t go in. The Anakites, the giants in the land, are too strong for us. They will murder us and kidnap our women and children!” proved to be patently false. YHWH God – just as Caleb and Joshua had claimed – would be with the Israelites therefore they had no reason to fear, no matter who or what obstacle was in their way. We need to learn this lesson, as well, for the “giants in the land” that live inside our hearts and our minds. Do you have any? Can God handle them? Of course, He can. Just trust Him.

So, after having read through chapter 10 outlining the capture of the southern half of the land, and chapter 11 with the northern half, and then recounting the defeating of the Anakites, chapters 12, 13, and the first half of 14 of the Book of Joshua go through, in general terms, how the land was to be divided up between the Israelite people. With the second half of chapter 14, though, and then on through to chapter 19, is a specific summary of the dividing up of the land between the tribal groups of Israel. That retelling starts and ends with two wonderful stories of encouragement for us: the 2 faithful spies, Caleb and Joshua, were rewarded with their own land after all those decades of waiting. Those men had ended up being the only two of the 12 spies to actually survive and make it into the Promised Land. By the time the land was conquered, both were elderly and their life stories ending with them being rewarded for lives of faithfulness. They never gave up their hopes and dreams and neither should we! Their endings should be an encouragement to any of you who have been waiting a long time for something good to happen in a trying situation. First, here’s Caleb:

Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So, on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.’ Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So, Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly…Then the land had rest from war. (Joshua 14:6-15)

I am sure that Caleb must have wondered if the day would ever come when he would receive his promised inheritance. Have you ever wondered, “how long, O Lord?” This is your story of hope.
Do not become too battle fatigued or discouraged to give up on believing or hoping. Whatever the situation might be that is not yet resolved in the way you would like it to be, keep on carrying on, trusting in God to work out a reward for your faithfulness. God promised Caleb a reward for his faithful trusting in Him. Claim that type of faithful promise for yourself. The Letter to the Hebrews says this:

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

Hope is the very thing that produces and strengthens faith; and hope is founded on the promises of God’s Word – both oral and written. Caleb never forgot the Lord’s spoken promise; and therefore, he clung to the dream of his own place in the Promised Land, like a bulldog refusing to loosen its bite. God is faithful and His promises can be trusted. You can count on God. Trust in Him for what you need, and you will discover, just as Caleb did, that His promises are sure.

Caleb had had a special interest in Hebron ever since he had first spied out the land. I mentioned it on the first map we looked at, way in the southern half of the land of Canaan. Now, Hebron appealed to Caleb probably because of its significance to the Israelite people. It was where the patriarch Abraham’s wife Sarah had died, and where Abraham had purchased a burial cave for her. It was the only land Abraham ever owned in Canaan, the place where Abraham was buried, and where Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, and Joseph were, as well. Caleb claimed Hebron for his own new hometown, the city in which his descendants would live. Caleb wanted to finish big, in the land he admired decades past. Missionary William Carey famously declared: “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” Caleb lived by that maxim and he went out big. Why not? The life-story of Caleb ends with Joshua honouring him by granting him his request. But, as for Joshua, what about himself? Was he similarly blessed? Well, his personality was totally different from Caleb’s. Unlike Caleb who boasted about his impressive physical stamina, Joshua was much more humble, and so we read that, after all of the land had been divided up amongst everyone else,
Joshua took his piece of land last, the insignificant town of Timnath Serah, a hilly and rocky town which you can still visit the archaeological ruins of today. As you might recall from that first map we looked at, Timnath Serah was located about 20 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Now, the story of Joshua’s remaining years we will still read about in the last few chapters of the Book of Joshua but here is how the recounting of the dividing of the land chapters ended in chapter 19:

When they had finished dividing the land into its allotted portions, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun an inheritance among them, as the Lord had commanded. They gave him the town he asked for — Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he built up the town and settled there. These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel assigned by lot at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And so, they finished dividing the land. (Joshua 19:49-51)

Friends, do you realize that we too have an inheritance waiting for us? According to the Apostle Peter, God has reserved a place for us in heaven,

A living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. (1st Peter 1:3-4).

And, so, each of us who worships YHWH God and serves his son Jesus, are

Looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (Hebrews 11:10)

Friends. Carry on. Do not give up. Your reward is coming! Amen.

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