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Conquest and Settlement - The Southern and Northern campaigns


  1. The South
    1. The Gibeonites
    2. The main southern campaign
    3. Towns mentioned in the southern campaign
      1. The Gibeonite towns
      2. The Amorite alliance towns
      3. Other towns
  2. The North
    1. The main northern campaign
    2. Towns mentioned in the northern campaign
      1. The Hazor alliance towns
      2. Other towns

The Gibeonites

Chapter 9
The Southern campaign

The Gibeonite response to Joshua's advance was to sue for peace and establish a covenant as vassals of the Israelites. Although there were elements of deception in the original approach, the covenant was evidently regarded as binding on both sides. Its existence required the Israelites acting as suzerain to protect the Gibeonites when attacked by others.

From Joshua's perspective, the alliance with the Gibeonites was highly advantageous. The 4 Gibeonite cities were influential - "Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai", Jos 10:2 - and also their location in the central part of the land allowed the conquest to separately deal with south and north. With these 4 cities guarding his northern flank, Joshua could safely carry out a series of attacks to the south and east of his main camp at Gilgal.

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The main southern campaign

Chapter 10
The Amorite kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon took exception to the Gibeonites allying with Joshua and attacked. In accordance with the treaty, Joshua assisted. Again we see a covert strategy - a night march and surprise assault on the Amorite camp. The immediate victory at Gibeon was followed by an extended pursuit of the attackers to the Valley of Aijalon, during which considerable numbers of casualties were inflicted on the combined Canaanite armies. The five kings were discovered in hiding and executed. The defeat of these rulers and their armies then allowed further progress.

Joshua then moved in a logical manner to tackle a number of southern cities. Two towns close to his army - Makkedah, and Libnah - were taken first, and then the three southernmost cities of the original alliance - Lachish, Eglon, and Hebron. From Hebron, Debir was captured, and the last verses of chapter 10 outline a considerable sweep to the south to lay claim to the Negev region and Kadesh-barnea, returning via Gaza. This part of the campaign is not described in detail at all. There are no records here of any cities being burned.

The list in chapter 12 of defeated kings includes all stages of Joshua's campaigning as well as the transJordan Amorite kings of Sihon and Og. Verses 10 to 16a cover the southern region. As well as the kings indicated above, Geder and Adullam (in the central hill country near Jarmuth), and Hormah and Arad (both in the Negev) are named. The capture of Bethel is described in Judges 1:22-26, as a separate episode. It could have happened as part of either the southern or northern campaigns, or as a self-contained action directly from Gilgal. There is no record in chapter 10 of the capture of either Jerusalem or Jarmuth. Since both Judah and Benjamin are reported as failing to dislodge the Jebusites, it must be presumed that Jerusalem was not secured until the time of David. Jarmuth does not feature prominently in the national life of Israel.

At the end of the campaign, Joshua returned with the army to Gilgal, his base of operations. This of course implies that at this stage there was no systematic attempt to consolidate the territory gained. This in turn allowed certain places to regain their hold on the surrounding lands, and can be seen as a cause of the Israelites failure to secure large tracts of the region.

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Towns mentioned in the southern campaign

The Gibeonite towns
This area played a key role in the later life of Israel, especially the religious life. Three of the four - Gibeon, Kephirah and Beeroth - were in Benjamite territory (Jos. 18:25,26), while Kiriath Jearim was just inside the region held by Judah (Jos. 15:9,60, 18:15, 1 Chr. 2:50). The name Baalah (or Baalah of Judah) is used in some passages (eg. Josh. 15:60, or 2 Samuel 6). It was also a way-point for the Danites on their route north to capture Laish. Gibeon became a Levitical city assigned to the Kohathite clan (Jos. 20:17). All four cities were important in post-exilic times also (Ezra 2:25, Neh 3:7, 7:25-29).

Gibeon was the home town of Saul's ancestors (1 Chr. 8:29, 9:35). Just before Saul's reign, Kiriath Jearim was the town to which the Ark of the Covenant was returned by the Philistines, and it then remained here for some years. 2 Sam. 6, 1 Chr. 15 and 2 Chr 1 describe the actions taken by David to transfer it again to Jerusalem when this became his capital. However, Gibeon remained "the most important high place" at least until Solomon's reign, and both David and he caused sacrifices to be offered there - 1 Chr. 16:39, 21:29, 2 Kings 3:4, 2 Chr. 1:3-5. The reputation as a religious centre clearly perpetuated until at least Jeremiah's time, as both the false prophet Hananiah (Jer. 28:1) and the true one Uriah (26:20) came from the region. Jeremiah also alludes to "the great pool".

Ishmaiah the Gibeonite joined David in Ziklag (1 Chr. 12:4), and Joab's armour-bearer Naharai came from Beeroth (2 Sam. 23:37). Gibeon is used as a landmark in David's defeat of the Philistines (1 Chr. 14:16). It was also the scene of the fight between the followers of David and Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 2:12), and the murderers of Ish-bosheth came from Beeroth (2 Sam. 4:2), perhaps illustrating the mixed feelings in the area towards Saul's household. 2 Samuel 21 describes the settlement of a blood feud between Saul's house and the nonIsraelite Gibeonites. Amasa, Absalom's general during his insurrection, was also killed here (2 Sam. 20:8-13).

Gibeon was substantially occupied in Early Bronze, Middle Bronze II, then Iron through to Persian and Roman times. No Late Bronze settlement has been identified, though there are burials in the area from this era. In the early Iron Age, a large pit with stairway leading down to a water chamber was built - perhaps the pool to whch Jeremiah makes reference - and somewhat later another tunnel was cut to a spring outside the city walls. Shoshenk I lists it amongst his captured towns.

Kiriath Jearim's location has not been definitely located, though some people prefer Kuriet el-'Enab, about 14 km west of Jerusalem on the road to Jaffa.

The Amorite alliance towns
Jerusalem was originally assigned to Benjamite territory (Jos. 18:28) but formed one of the border landmarks with Judah. Although the king Adoni-Zedek was defeated and killed, there is no suggestion that the city was attacked as part of the southern campaign. Both Judah and Benjamin evidently struggled to assert control - Judah failed to take the city (Jos. 15:63), as did the Benjamites (Jdg. 1:29). Jdg. 1:8 reports that Judah managed to set the city on fire - perhaps part of the same event as Jos. 15 - but the Jebusites retained control and the best that the Israelite tribes could manage was to live alongside them. 1 Sam. 17:54 records David taking the head of Goliath to Jerusalem, but this is unlikely to have happened at the time indicated as Jerusalem was still independent. David's capture of the city is recorded in 1 Chr. 11:4, and from that point on the capital of the tribe of Judah (and at first the nation as a whole) was transferred here. In the Amarna letters it is an independent stronghold under threat from Labayu and others.

Hebron had evidently been an important centre in patriarchal times, at which point it had been called Kiriath Arba (the name being derived from Arba, an ancestor of Anak). Abraham had camped there in his early travels through Canaan (Gen. 13:18), and he returned there later. After Sarah's death he purchased a field from Ephron in order to bury her (Gen. 23:1, 19). Isaac and Jacob both had more settled occupancy there (Gen. 35:27, 37:14). The original investigation of the land by the Israelite spies (Numbers 13:22) visited here, and three descendants of Anak (Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai) are specifically mentioned. Occupancy by Anakites is mentioned again in Joshua 11:21.

The town was given to Caleb in recognition of his successful capture (Josh. 14:13, 15:13, repeated again in Judges 1:10). Josh. 14:7, 10 indicates that 45 years had passed since the initial exploration of the Israelite spies, and so nearly 7 years had passed since Joshua's original entry into the land. This could mean either that the southern campaign was still proceeding at this stage - which seems unlikely from the way the narrative has been put together - or that Caleb's occupancy was confirmed at a convenient point in time well after the actual capture, perhaps at the formal occasion of distributing the land amongst the tribes. The three Anakites mentioned in Numbers 13 are again named; however the king leading the city in the Amorite alliance was called Hoham (Josh. 10:3). It was of course part of the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:54), and was named as one of the Cities of Refuge (Josh. 20:7, see also The Cities of Refuge), and a Levitical town for the Kohathites (Josh. 21:11, 1 Chr. 6:55). It is mentioned briefly as part of the account of Samson (Jdg. 16:3). It plays a key role in the account of David - he sent gifts there from Ziklag (1 Sam. 30:31), and the first 7 1/2 years of his reign were based there (2 Sam. 2:1 and numerous other places). During his attempted insurrection, Absalom used Hebron as his base, presumably to appeal to a partisan sense of pride in the city. It was one of the cities fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chr. 11:10).

Jarmuth was part of the territory of Judah (Jos. 15:35), and the only other mention is in the post-exile account of Nehemiah (11:29). Its identification with Tell Yarmut, on a commanding position 5 km south of Beth Shemesh, seems probable. Based on the extent of the walls and other remains, the Late Bronze population here was between 1500 and 2000.

Lachish was assigned to Judah and was evidently an important town throughout the period. It was one of Rehoboam's fortified towns (2 Chr. 11:9). Amaziah fled there from Jerusalem and was killed there (2 Kings 14:19, 2 Chr. 15:27). Sennacherib besieged it, apparently unsuccessfully (2 Kings 18:14, 19:8, 2 Chr. 32:9, Isa. 36:2, 37:8, Jer. 34:7 and also Sennacherib's own records). It was one of the last of the fortified cities of Judah to fall, along with Azekah and Jerusalem (Jer. 34:7). After the exile it was still important in Nehemiah's time (Neh. 11:30).

Eglon also was in the region assigned to Judah (Jos. 15:35) and there is no further mention of this town. Tell el Hesi is a widely accepted possibility for this town, and its location is consistent with the campaign description in Joshua 10, but Tell Eitun, 20 km ESE of this site is preferred by some.

Other towns
Gezer plays an important role in the account of the southern campaign, but was apparently not captured despite its king and army having been defeated near Lachish. The town was assigned to Ephraim (Josh. 16:3, 10, 1 Chr. 6:67) and was a Levitical town for the Kohathite clan (Josh. 21:21, 1 Chr. 6:67). However, Ephraim could not dislodge the Canaanites living there (Josh. 16:10, Jdg. 1:29). In David's time it was a landmark for the extent of Philistine territory (1 Chr. 20:4). Solomon built it up as part of a systematic programme including Megiddo and Hazor (1 Kings 9:15, 16), but only after it had been taken by Pharaoh and given to him as a dowry.

A prominent city was on this location from at least Middle Bronze II, because of its location on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa and close to a major route between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Strong Canaanite defences were overthrown by Thutmose III. It features prominently in the Amarna letters, ruled by Milkilu and subsequently his sons. Merenptah claimed to have captured it, and after about 1200 BCE conventionally (about 900 BCE New Chronology) the Philistines controlled it, probably with Egyptian approval. Gezer has a gate and defences in the "Solomonic" style, as also found at Megiddo and Hazor.

Azekah was part of Judah's territory (Josh. 15:35). The Philistines assembled forces near here (1 Sam. 17:1). It was one of Rehoboam's fortified towns (2 Chr. 11:9). It was one of the last three fortified cities to be taken by the Babylonians in their final advance, together with Jerusalem and Lachish (Jer. 34:7) and is mentioned in the Lachish letters. Its capture is implied though not explicit in these letters. It was once again populated in post-exilic times (Neh. 11:30). It may perhaps be identified with Tell ez-Zahariyeh.

Debir was another Anakite stronghold according to Josh. 11:21. It was also known as Kiriath Sepher. The accounts of its capture in Josh. 15:15 and Jdg. 1:11 both follow the same sequence, beginning with the capture of Hebron, after which Othniel led the attack on Debir to secure marriage to Caleb's daughter Acsah. It was part of the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:49), and was a Levitical town for the Kohathite clan (Josh. 21:15, 1 Chr. 6:58). There is no further mention of the town after this. There are three main contenders for its location. Tell beit Mirsim (20 km WSW of Hebron) has a commanding location facing north, and was occupied from the Hyksos period to the end of the monarchy. Khirbet Terraneh is feasible though a little too close to Hebron (about 8 km SW) and lacks archaeological proof. Khirbet Rabbud is another possibility, about 13 km SW of Hebron, and was occupied from Late Bronze to 586 BCE.

Libnah became part of Judah's territory (Josh. 15:42) and was designated a Levitical town for the Kohathite clan (Josh. 21:13, 1 Chr. 6:57). 2 Kings 8:22 (and 2 Chr. 21:10) recount that Libnah revolted against Jehoram of Judah at the same time as Edom did, but nothing more is heard of this revolt. 2 Kings 19:8 and Isaiah 37:8 both inform us that the Assyrian king Sennacherib moved from the siege of Lachish to Libnah. Josiah's wife Hamutal, the mother of Jehoahaz and Zedekiah of Judah was from here (2 Kings 23:31 and 24:18). Its location is debated. A common suggestion is Tell es-Safi, about 7 km west of Azekah on a limestone outcrop, but the account in Joshua suggests a place further south-east, and in this location it is difficult to see why Sennacherib would bypass it to attack Lachish first. Tell Bornat has been suggested but is rather too small. Tell Judeideh is possible but unproven.

Makkedah was assigned to the territory of Judah (Josh. 15:41) but there is no further mention of this town. Eusebius claimed it was 8 Roman miles from Beit Guvrin. Khirbet el-Kheishum (NE of Azekah) is too far, whereas Tell Bornat is too near.

The remainder of the campaign is only sketched briefly. The territories of both Judah and Simeon included numerous towns in the southern region - for example Ziklag, Beer-sheba, and Sharuhen - but it is not indicated whether these required military conquest, or were simply taken over by occupation.

The main northern campaign

Chapter 11
The Southern campaign Another alliance formed amongst the northern Canaanite royal cities. The time between the conclusion of the southern campaign and the start of the northern one is not given. The level of detail in this campaign is also considerably less. The kings of Madon, Shimron, Acshaph, together with others from the Kinnereth (Galilee) area joined with Jabin, the ruler of Hazor. Joshua's struggle against these kings was prolonged (12:18) and in some respects of limited success. Joshua burned Hazor, presumably as the ringleader, and killed the various kings ranged against him, but the list of places which remained unsecured at the end of the campaign is extensive. It seems likely that many of the major cities were not in fact brought under Israelite control.

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Towns mentioned in the northern campaign

The Hazor alliance towns
Hazor is discussed in some detail in the City Records pages. Briefly, Hazor is mentioned in the Old Testament as part of the territory of Naphtali, in the books of Joshua and Judges, in Solomon's time, and when it was captured by Tiglath-pileser. It was an extremely important town in the ancient world, and references to it are numerous from Mari and Egyptian texts as well as later Mesopotamian ones. It was a strong independent city in the Amarna letters, despite having been burnt towards the end of the Middle Bronze Age (and on later occasions as well).

Madon is referred to in the Septuagint as Marron, and so possibly the same as Merom of Joshua 11:7, where Joshua launched a surprise attack against the northern coalition. One of Solomon's officials - Jehdeiah the Meronothite - was in charge of Solomon's donkeys (1 Chr. 27:30), and in Nehemiah's time Jadon of Meronoth helped rebuild part of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:7). Possible modern identifications are Meiron, near springs feeding the Wadi Leimun or Meiron, or Maroun er-Ras, 15 km further north, above a valley near Hazor. Thutmose III records it as part of a campaign list, and Meiron does not appear to have been a large enough settlement to have been recognised like this. Anotehr possibility for Madon is a town further south, directly west of Lake Chinnereth.

Shimron (or Shimron-Meron) is most probably the same as the town of the same name assigned to Zebulun, near Bethlehem (Josh. 19:15). This in turn is possibly Tell es-Semuniyeh, about 5 km SSE of this town, though this is disputed. It could be the place referred to as Shmw'nw or Shm'n in Egyptian sources of the first half of the second millennium, and Shamhuna of the Amarna correspondence, but again this is not certain.

Achshaph was in the territory assigned to Asher (Josh. 19:25). It is mentioned in Egyptian campaign lists, and was east and south of Acco. Favoured alternatives are Tell Keisan or Khirbet Harbaj.

Dor was on the Mediterranean coast. It was in territory given to Manasseh (Josh. 17:11), though on the border with Ephraim (1 Chr. 7:29). However, the Canaanite occupants were not driven out at this time (Josh. 17:12, also Jdg. 1:27). It was the location of the district governor Ben-Abinadab under Solomon (1 Kings 4:11). The Egyptian Wen-Amon story (from the 11th century conventionally, 8th century New Chronology) refers to it as a "town of the Tjeker", one of the Sea Peoples.

Other towns
Kedesh of the northern campaign is sometimes called Kedesh of Naphtali (to whom the town was apportioned) or Kedesh of Galilee. It was a Levitical town and a City of Refuge (see The Cities of Refuge). It is probably the home town of Barak, from whence he moved south to take on the forces of Sisera (Jdg. 4:9-11). It fell rapidly to Tiglath-pileser III in 734/2 as he marched south from Hazor.It is generally identified with Tell Qades, NW of Lake Huleh, and brief research has shown occupation in both early and late Bronze Ages. Another town of the same name is in Issachar's region, and was also apparently known as Kishion (Josh. 21:28). This was a Levitical town for the Gershonites, and is identified as Tell Abu Qedes.

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