Sermon on Joshua 11:1-23 – “Victory and Rest”

Sermon on Joshua 11:1-23 – “Victory and Rest”

Sermon for Sunday, November 20th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Jos 10:29-43 ESV] 29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho. 31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish and laid siege to it and fought against it. 32 And the LORD gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he captured it on the second day and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah. 33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish. And Joshua struck him and his people, until he left none remaining. 34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon. And they laid siege to it and fought against it. 35 And they captured it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword. And he devoted every person in it to destruction that day, as he had done to Lachish. 36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron. And they fought against it 37 and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it. He left none remaining, as he had done to Eglon, and devoted it to destruction and every person in it. 38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned back to Debir and fought against it 39 and he captured it with its king and all its towns. And they struck them with the edge of the sword and devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king. 40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41 And Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42 And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

New Testament reading:

[Act 20:17-27 ESV] 17 Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18 And when they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19 serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20 how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

Gospel reading:

[Jhn 16:25-33 ESV] 25 “I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” 29 His disciples said, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! 30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Text for the Sermon:

[Jos 11:1-23 ESV] 1 When Jabin, king of Hazor, heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph, 2 and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 3 to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4 And they came out with all their troops, a great horde, in number like the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5 And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. 6 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” 7 So Joshua and all his warriors came suddenly against them by the waters of Merom and fell upon them. 8 And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel, who struck them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the Valley of Mizpeh. And they struck them until he left none remaining. 9 And Joshua did to them just as the LORD said to him: he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire. 10 And Joshua turned back at that time and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword, for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. 11 And they struck with the sword all who were in it, devoting them to destruction; there was none left that breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12 And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua captured, and struck them with the edge of the sword, devoting them to destruction, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13 But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor alone; that Joshua burned. 14 And all the spoil of these cities and the livestock, the people of Israel took for their plunder. But every person they struck with the edge of the sword until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15 Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses. 16 So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them and put them to death. 18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took them all in battle. 20 For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses. 21 And Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua devoted them to destruction with their cities. 22 There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel. Only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod did some remain. 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.


You might notice that in this account from chapter 11, there are no miracles to compare with the parting of the Red Sea, or the crossing of the Jordan, or the fall of the walls of Jericho, or of the stopping of the sun and the moon in the sky.

There are no obvious external miracles, but the Lord is working nonetheless.

The Lord was working to encourage Joshua when he said to him “Do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid of the many kings and their armies that have gathered against you. For the victory is the Lords. And God said, “tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.”

The Lord was also working in the hardening of the hearts of the enemies. Perhaps this caused the remaining Canaanites to go into battle against Israel being less than preparing. So opposed to Israel and so angry they were with hardened hearts that they failed to plan out their strategy. Perhaps that is so. But the text doesn’t explain on that point. We do know that the Lord was working to “harden their hearts” (as we see in verse 20) so that they would all come against Israel in battle and therefore all be devoted to destruction.

In this, the Lord was speeding up the conquest of Canaan.

I. Victory over Many Kings (v. 1-14)

First there was victory over one city and its King (Jericho), then another city and its King (Ai), then five cities and their kings in the defense of the Gibeonites, and most of Southern Canaan was conquered. Now, the conquest speeds up even more, with victory over numerous cities and their kings in Northern Canaan. Indeed not only the North, but to the East, South, and West as well.

When you read the verse few verses of this chapter you indeed see that the enemies come from the north, the south, the west, and the east. And they come from the hill country and the lowlands. That is, they come from everywhere in Canaan. And everywhere will soon be under control of Israel. So that God reigns from the hill country of the north, and God reigns from the deserts of the South, and God reigns over every town and every village of the land.

A. Especially over Jabin of Hazor (v. 10-11)

In the victory that takes place in this chapter, that which is especially noted is the victory over King Jabin and his city of Hazor. This is a notable victory because Hazor was formerly head of all of those kingdoms. And, the archaeologists have found that Hazor was a strongly fortified city. So this was an especially important victory for Israel. And when they conquered Hazor, they burned it to the ground and kill all of its inhabitants. Being that Hazor was the head of the kingdoms, it must also be a symbolic act to destroy the head of the dragon, the center of the evil of the land.

B. Opposition to horses and chariots.

You may notice the many references to horses in this chapter.

The last time we prominently saw horses was at the crossing of the Red Sea when the chariots of Egypt were chasing the nation of Israel. And what happened? Did the chariots win? No, indeed they did not. Though they were far mightier than the people of Israel, God is far mightier than chariots.

And from that episode onward in the Scriptures we have warnings about trusting in horses and chariots.

[Isa 31:1 ESV] 1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!

[Psa 20:7-8 ESV] 7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. 8 They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

The Arab nations have always loved horse. There is even the Arabian breed. But the Israelites have stayed away from then. Horses did not feature prominently in Israel.

So the Canaanites brought horses and chariots into battle, but the Israelites did not. And when the Israelites won, they burned the chariots and hamstrung the horses. They could have taken these as weapons for their own use, but they did not want to trust in these rather than in God.

If you didn’t know, to hamstring a horse, or to “hough” (pronounced “hock”) a horse as the KJV says, is to cut a tendon in its leg so that it can no longer run and be useful for battle. Why they didn’t just kill the horses, I don’t know. Perhaps there was some advantage to keeping the horses alive.

As for the people – the enemy nations – they are all devoted to destruction. All but the Gibeonites who had a covenant with Israel.

II. Victory over the Anakim

There was victory also over the Anakim. These are the sons of Anak. Probably, it seems, they were dispersed among the land. The Anakim are the giants.

These were the giants who brought so much fear into the Israelite spies that they told Moses not to go into the land.

The Israelites had already killed King Og of Bashan on the other side of the Jordan. And, it is said, that his bed was 9 cubits long and 4 cubits wide. If he filled the whole bed he’d be 14 ft tall and 6 ft wide. Of course, beds are made to be larger than the person sleeping on it. So possibility Og was 9 or 10 ft tall. Another giant, later on, is Goliah who is almost 10 ft tall.

In the course of Joshua’s battles across Canaan the Anakim are killed. Only some remain in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. And it is Gath that is later the hometown of Goliath. So there is continuity there in the account.

While the defeat of all of these kings and of most of the Anakim is contained all in this one chapter, it is apparent that some length of time passes in these events. In verse 18 it says “Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.”

From this we can better understand how great it was when, as verse 23 says, “And the land had rest from war.”

Following the victory there was rest for Israel.

This was a great victory for Joshua and Israel. A great accomplishment.

Verse 15 says: “Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.”

This is honorable that Joshua has obeyed the Lord. He has obeyed him in all things and done that which God has commanded.

There is a parallel of sorts in Acts chapter 20, where Paul (a leader of the church of God) also obeyed the Lord. He said “I did not shrink from declaring to you anything hat was profitable, and teaching you in public from house to house. … I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

Joshua left nothing undone.

Paul left nothing unsaid.

III. Victory in Christ and a Better Rest

But the accomplishments of Joshua pale in comparison to Christ.

And the victory of the Israelites pales in comparison to Christ.

Joshua is a type of Christ, obeying the commands of God.

And the victory of the Israelites armies over the Canaanites foreshadowing the greater victory of Jesus Christ over sin.

And like Joshua — and even more so — Christ has complete victory.

And, following Christ’s victory on the cross, we have rest. [REPEAT: Following Christ’s victory on the cross, we have rest.]

Therefore when we worship the Lord — celebrating Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil — we also rest. The day of worship is also a day of rest. And the rest comes from the victory. When the war was over, Joshua and the people (and the land) had rest. And now that Christ has won the war, WE have rest.

Indeed, if you look at the Westminster Shorter Catechism on the question “What is Faith?” you’ll read that “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and REST upon him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

We REST in Jesus Christ. When you have faith in Him, you look no further. In Christ there is victory, and in Christ we find our rest.

This rest is spoken of in Hebrews chapter 4. There, the author mentions the rest in the time of Joshua, but then contends that rest was not complete because God spoke of another day later on.

That is, after Joshua had rest, yet in Psalm 95 many years later, God spoke again about “not entering his rest.” After Joshua’s victory and rest there remained yet a more excellent rest for the people of God

So, the author of the letter to the Hebrews says, “we who have believed enter that rest.” United to Christ in faith we benefit with the promise of entering his rest, to have eternal life apart from all of the battles of this world.

In heaven there will be no more sin, Sin will be at rest

there will be no more struggle, struggles will cease

there will be no more foes,

no more enemies,

no more sickness,

no more death,

no more temptation,

no more worries,

no more doubts,

no more fears,

We will be at rest from all our troubles.

Even now we have victory in Christ, promised in his death and resurrection.

No matter how many foes are arrayed against, not matter how giant those foes are, of whatever besets us and fights against us, we have victory in Christ, who is a mighty conqueror.

There are more enemies than we can deal with.

All around us is non-Christian media, actions, politics, and lifestyles.

We are outnumbered, outgunned, but we have the Lord on our side.

Jesus indeed says: “take heart; I have overcome the world.”

And so we say with the Psalmist: Psa 27:1-2 – The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

The victory has been one, let us therefore, in all things, rest in the victory of Jesus Christ. Amen. Let us pray