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Time Line - Historical Overview

Conquest of the Land

As we follow the narrative of the conquest of the Promised Land, a question that is often asked is: "Did they or didn’t they?" (1)

* The narrative of Joshua seems to say that, yes, Israel conquered ALL the land of Canaan, just as GOD commanded them.

* But Judges seems to tell us Israel left portions of Canaan without driving out all the people they found there, and without destroying all their possessions and their idols. Indeed, there was intermarriage with the local people.

So, which is correct? Does one book of the Bible say one thing, and another book something else? (Some people use this puzzle to claim that the Bible cannot be trusted.)

Listen carefully in what follows to the answer to this question!

After Moses’ death, the LORD spoke to Joshua words of encouragement -

"Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. - - -

"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.

"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

"Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go." (Josh.1:3, 5-7a)

Before they crossed the River Jordan to enter the land, Joshua sent two men as spies to view the land, especially Jericho. But when the king of Jericho discovered they had come and sent some men to search for them, a harlot Rahab hid them and sent the searchers elsewhere. Then Rahab spoke to the spies, saying it was known how GOD has given Israel the land, and concerning the miraculous crossing when the Red Sea was dried up. She sought a promise that, in return for her help, they would spare her father’s household, a pledge which the spies willingly gave. (Josh.2)

There followed the miraculous crossing of the River Jordan, in which the waters some distance upstream, which would flow strongly that time of year, stood and rose up in one heap, the moment the feet of the priests carrying the Ark touched the water. In this way, the people crossed opposite Jericho. (Josh.3).

[Note that the miracle here is not that the water stopped, for the Jordan often stops due to mud, but rather the timing of the event.]

1. Jericho

Next there was the remarkable scene at Jericho, which was a fortified city. The LORD instructed Joshua that they were simply to march around the city for six days, all the men prepared for war. The priests were to blow their trumpets, but no man must otherwise make a sound. And on the seventh day, when the priests blew the trumpets with a long blast, Joshua said to the people, "shout!" And when the people did shout with a great shout, the wall of the city fell flat. (Josh.6:1-21)

Joshua warned the people that everything in the city was under the ban and belonged to the LORD, that they must not take anything under the ban. All the gold and silver and articles of bronze should go into the treasury of the LORD. And only Rahab and her household should live.

The city was indeed utterly destroyed, everything and everyone in the city. Only Rahab and her household were rescued by the two spies. (Josh.6:1-25)

Then a curse was spoken against Jericho, saying that the man who rebuilds the city of Jericho, with the loss of his first-born would he lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son would he set up its gates. (Josh.6:26)

Indeed, in the days of King Ahab (who married Jezebel), a Bethlehemite named Hiel rebuilt Jericho. But his first-born died as he laid its foundation, and his youngest son died as he set up its gates. (1 Kings 16:34)

Today, there is a city called Jericho, on the road which leads east from Jerusalem. But archaeologists have never been able to locate what is left of the ancient fortified city.

2. Ai

Following the success at Jericho, Joshua moved the army of Israel quickly to Ai, but was soundly defeated. When Joshua cried out, the LORD answered.

"Rise up! Why have you fallen on your face, for Israel has sinned and they have even taken some things under the ban. Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies." (Josh.7:10-11)

The LORD caused the people to be chosen by lot, first by tribe, then by family, then by household. In this way, Achan was discovered, and he confessed to stealing silver, a beautiful cloak, and a bar of gold. He and his family were stoned and were burned with fire. (Josh.7: 14-26)

Once more Ai was attacked, but this time with success. (Josh.8:1-29)

3. Covenant with Gibeon

Now, when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they acted deceitfully. Dressing as travelers, they dressed in worn out clothes, took worn out wineskins, took dry and crumbled bread, and went to Joshua at Gilgal claiming to come from afar. Appearing as strangers wishing to move into the land, they asked Joshua to make a covenant with them. Joshua, without first asking of the LORD, made a covenant with them to let them live in peace. (But in the Law, Israel was not allowed to make such a covenant.) (Exod.34:12,15)

But after 3 days, their deceit was discovered. Israel did not strike them because of the PROMISE, though they made them hewers of wood and drawers of water for Israel. (Josh.9)

4. Southern and Northern Kings

Now the five Southern Kings heard what Gibeon had done, and they gathered together and fought against Gibeon. When Joshua heard of it, his army marched all night from Gilgal, he came upon them suddenly, and struck them so they fled from the ascent to the descent of Beth-horon, where the LORD rained down large hailstones from heaven.

As he pursued them, Joshua called to the LORD, and the sun stood still at Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Aijalon, until Israel had conquered their enemies. (There is no day like it that has been recorded, when the sun stopped in the sky and did not go down for about a day.)

(Who said GOD doesn’t act in history?)

The five kings fled and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. The unusual caves there are the great Bell Caves made of sandstone, hollowed out by water, in which there is a small opening at the top, like a huge jug. When the kings were discovered hiding there, Joshua ordered the small opening sealed with a huge stone until the fighting was done. After that they were brought out and Joshua put them to death. (Josh.10:1-27)

Then Joshua moved on without delay and he captured and destroyed five cities of Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron and Debir.

Next, Joshua struck the Negev, the hill country, the lowlands, the slopes, and all the kings. He destroyed all who breathed, as the LORD commanded. When the four Northern Kings heard of what Joshua had done, they came out with very many horses and chariots to fight against Israel. Joshua came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom. The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them, and struck them until no survivor was left. (Josh.11:1-9)

5. Work Completed

The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that in all this, Joshua left nothing undone that the LORD had commanded Moses. (Josh.11:15)

Yet when Joshua was old and advanced in years, very much of the land remained to be possessed. (Josh.13:1) So it was allotted as an inheritance (Josh.13:6), as well as the designation of the cities of refuge (Josh.20:3) (2)

And in Joshua’s final message to the people (Josh.23-24), Joshua assured them that, so long as they did all that is written in the Law, and not to associate with the nations around them or to follow their gods, the LORD would surely drive them out before the sons of Israel.

But if they would ever turn back and cling to those nations, the LORD would no longer drive out those nations from before them, that -

"- - - they shall be a snare and a trap to you, and a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you. (Josh.23:5-13)

Joshua said -

"And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Josh.24:15)

This is a portion of a more extensive historical overview prepared by Mr. Charles Quigley. Select the more inclusive "sessions" for the TANAKH SURVEY (from the menu on the left) to view the overview in its entirety. This historical overview was originally created for oral presentations that cover Israel's history from its origin to a period leading to the 'Current Era' (CE). See note below on use of this presentation material. © 2003

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