Joshua conquers the Southern Cities

Josh 10:29-39    Joshua defeats the southern cities of Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron and Debir (see 7 on Map 48).  Archaeological remains of these Canaanite cities - which were destroyed at the time of the Israelite conquest - can be found today at Tell ed Duweir (Lachish), Tell el-Khalil (Hebron) and Tell Beit Mirrim (Debir).

Josh 10:40-43    Joshua conquers the whole of the southern region inland from Kadesh Barnea (in the northern Negev) to Gaza on the coast, and from Goshen in the south (in the north east Nile Delta) to Gibeon in the north.


Main Gate at Lachish (Wilson 44691)

Remains of the Main Gate at Lachish  (Wilson 44691)


The Conquest of Canaan

The Israelite conquest of the ‘promised land’ of Canaan took at least two years. The first year was occupied with a campaign to destroy the southern cities of Canaan. The Israelites moved west from their camp on the Plains of Moab, crossed the River Jordan and attacked Jericho in April in c.1406BC. After seven days of noisy marching round the city (to intimidate the inhabitants and perhaps to distract them from the Israeli tunnellers who were secretly undermining the city walls) Jericho fell and was burnt to the ground.

The next target was the city of Ai. The first approach, a pitched battle outside the city, was a disaster, but a second, more subtle, approach succeeded in luring the defenders away from the city – which was then successfully destroyed in a commando raid.

After making a treaty with the people of Gibeon, the Israelites then confronted the five Amorite kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon when these Canaanite kings beseiged Gibeon. The five kings were killed in a surprise attack, and the city of Makkedah was captured. Joshua then took advantage of the situation to destroy the southern cities of Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron and Debir – though the well-fortified city of Jerusalem remained an independent Canaanite enclave until it was captured by King David in 1004 BC.

Gezer also appears to have maintained its independence as a Canaanite stronghold, and was only handed over to the Israelites by Pharoah Haremheb of Egypt when King Solomon married his daughter in c.970BC.

By the end of c.1406BC, the Israelites had conquered much of the southern region from Kadesh Barnea in the Negev Desert to Gaza on the Mediterranean coast, and from Goshen on the southern border with Egypt to Gibeon in the north.

The following year, c.1405BC, the Israelites embarked on a further campaign to subjugate the northern cities of Canaan. After a surprise attack at the Waters of Meron that routed the kings of Hazor, Madon, Shimron and Achshaph, the Israelites followed this up by capturing the city of Hazor and the central hill country south of the Lake of Kinnereth (the Sea of Galilee). By the end of the year, the Israelites had secured the whole of the uplands from Hebron in the south to Hazor in the north (see Map 48).


Archaeological remains at Tel Rumeida, Hebron (Eman)

Archaeological remains at Tel Rumeida, Hebron  (Eman)


While the Israelites successfully conquered the central hill country of Canaan (where the terrain favoured surprise attacks and hand-to-hand fighting), they were less successful in subduing the cities of the surrounding lowland plains. Here, the more technologically advanced societies deployed spear-throwers on fast-moving chariots to defend their cities (see Joshua 16:16). Neither were they able to take the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon to the north on the coast of Lebanon (see Joshua 13:1-5).

Unable to use chariots in the central hill country, the Israelites resorted to hamstringing the horses and destroying the chariots that they captured from their enemies in the surrounding lowlands (see Joshua 11:9). Indeed, the Israelites only began to use chariots in battle some four hundred years later when King Solomon built three ‘chariot cities’ at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer in c.947BC to defend the Vale of Jezreel and the coastal Plain of Sharon (see 1 Kings10:26-29).

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