Joshua 10:1-11 – God of the Gaps

Joshua 10:1–2 (ESV) — 1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors.

Chapter 10 picks up from Joshua 9:1-2.

  • Joshua 9:1–2 (ESV) — 1 As soon as all the kings who were beyond the Jordan in the hill country and in the lowland all along the coast of the Great Sea toward Lebanon, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, heard of this, 2 they gathered together as one to fight against Joshua and Israel.

In our text, we see once again the significance of hearing about the work of Yahweh on Israel’s behalf.
  • King Adoni-zedek (lord of justice) “heard” of Joshua’s capture of Ai.
  • He heard how Joshua had “devoted it to destruction”.
    • The cherem/ban language of God.
  • He heard about the fate of the kings of Ai and Jericho.
  • He heard about the covenant the Gibeonites made with Israel.
    • And how they now “were among them”.

The king, understanding the nature of covenant, understood the Canaanites now had a new problem.
  • Not only was Israel advancing through the hill country with Yahweh’s help.
  • But now the Israelites had joined up with the Gibeonites.
  • The problem with this was that “all its men were warriors”.
  • So for these reasons King Adoni-zedek “feared greatly”.

Joshua 10:3–5 (ESV) — 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.

Influenced by what he had “heard”, and the fear it induced, Adoni-zedek responded.
  • He allied with other Canaanite kings and conspired to “strike Gibeon”.
  • Together they “went up” to Gibeon and “made war against it”.

The contrast is hard to ignore.
  • The Gibeonites responded to their fear of Yahweh and Israel with a desire to covenant.
  • The king and his allies responded to their fear of Yahweh and Israel with a desire to make war.
  • All we can say for sure is that the presence of God demands a response – there is no neutral ground.

Joshua 10:6 (ESV) — 6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.”

The Gibeonites take advantage of their covenant relationship with Israel.
  • They remind Joshua that they are Israel’s “servants”.
  • And then make the point that the Amorites “are gathered against us”.
  • Because, to say this is to say they are gathered against the Israelites.

Joshua 10:7–9 (ESV) — 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal.

Given the consequences of breaking a covenant made in Yahweh’s name (we discussed last week) –
  • Joshua mustered his troops and “went up” from Gilgal to aid the Gibeonites.
  • Yahweh makes clear to Joshua that, unlike the Amorites, Joshua is not to “fear”.
  • The outcome of the battle is already determined – none of them “shall stand before you”.
  • In fact, it appears a reason for this victory is another ambush-type surprise – “came upon them suddenly”.

God’s reassurance was a repetition of the promise he made to Joshua in Joshua 1:5.
  • “Such is the usual way God has of reassuring his children: not by unveiling to them some new truth previously unknown, but by reaffirming promises already given, which somehow take on special power because of the present pressing need. That is what God’s people usually need—not new truth but old truth freshly applied to their current need” – Dale Davis.

Davis goes on to point out that God’s truth, used rightly, “energizes human response” and “stimulates human ingenuity”.
  • Joshua marched all night through the hill country.
  • He was rewarded with the opportunity to make a devastating surprise attack.

Interestingly, in spite of the deception in which the Gibeonite covenant was formed –
  • In spite of God’s displeasure with Israel for violating his command to not covenant with Canaanites.
  • Yahweh, by His grace, blessed Israel (and the Gibeonites) with victory.
  • Grace in the OT strikes again.

Joshua 10:10–11 (ESV) — 10 And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.

The author of Joshua pins most of the credit for this victory on “the Lord”.
  • The Lord threw them into a panic” and Israel took advantage of it and “chased them
    • Some scholars say the grammar means that Yahweh “chased them”.
  • The Lord threw down large stones [hailstones] from heaven” which killed more soldiers than “Israel killed with the sword”.

David Howard says –
  • “It may have been that the fighting force with Joshua (v. 7) was actually involved in this—indeed, this probably was the case, in light of the reference in v. 11 to the Israelites’ swords killing people. But, here, the author has chosen to ignore this fact and to focus instead on Yahweh’s direct involvement as Israel’s warrior” – David Howard.
  • In other words, the author is giving credit to the Divine Warrior.


Verses like these are where so many critics and skeptics of the God of the Bible go astray.
  • They see these verses and think this is precisely why God is no longer needed.

First, it wasn’t “the Lord” who threw them into a panic, but the surprise attack that did so.
  • The author simply attributed their good fortune to the work of their God.

Second, it wasn’t “the Lord” that threw down hailstones.
  • Because science has shown us that –
  • “Hail starts out as little chips of ice in large cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds. These ice chips are kept aloft by updrafts or upward movements of air within a thunderstorm. As they are blown through freezing thunderstorm clouds, the ice chips grow larger and freeze solid into hailstones. The updrafts keep the hailstones aloft until they become too heavy to remain in the clouds. The stronger the updraft, the larger the hailstone can grow before falling to Earth” – NOAA.

In fact, there are numerous examples of this very thing happening around the world (source Wikipedia).
  • “9th Century – India – Several hundred pilgrims were killed by a massive hailstorm in Roopkund”.
  • “1888 – India – One of the deadliest hailstorms of all time killed at least 230 people, and over 1600 sheep and goats, in Uttar Pradesh. The hailstones were reportedly as big as oranges, and in some places were as high as 2 feet (60 centimetres.) No warning system existed in 1888 and therefore the death toll of this event was exceptionally high”.
  • “1986 – Bangladesh – At least 92 people were killed in Gopalganj by some of the heaviest hailstones ever recorded, which were the size of grapefruits and weighed around one kilogram (2.2 lbs) each”.
  • “February 1936 – South Africa – Devastating hailstorm with hailstones the size of coconuts, killed ten people and several head of cattle, in addition to nine people killed in flooding. 380 mm of rain fell in 15 minutes. Some reports claim more than 26 killed”.

The conclusion they make, then, is this:
  • Because Israel didn’t know science (where hail comes from).
  • And because they were inclined to attribute to their God things like military victories/failures, famine, etc.
  • They were the victims of their ANE cultural/religious baggage.
  • They thought God was in a control room “pulling levers” and pushing buttons, etc.

Now we know better (or we should, they say).
  • So their conclusion is this –
  • This God is a “God of the Gaps” merely used to fill in the gaps of our knowledge about how nature works.
  • This God is no longer needed.
  • Science has killed him.

In fact, the skeptic says that to think “God did it” is “an incredible copout” and “intellectual laziness” – Lawrence Krauss (24:00).
  • Play Krauss from Unbelievable - 1.01.11 – 1.02.10

What is our response to this line of reasoning and its conclusion?

The “God of the Gaps” is not the God of the Bible.
  • This is a straw man caricature of Yahweh.
  • Of course the Amorites went running because they were surprised.
  • Of course the hailstones came from a bad thunderstorm.
  • Of course God is not in a room pushing buttons – He is Spirit.

The skeptic’s problem is that they have completely ripped the God of the Bible out of context.
  • Yahweh is not a God that Israel happened to choose to explain the world around it.
  • He was not their choice for the chief “button pusher”.
  • They could have kept the god’s from Abram’s native Ur for that.
  • They could have kept the god’s from Egypt for that.

Yahweh did not function as Israel’s “explanation” of nature, as their “gap-filler”.
  • Yahweh was their Sovereign, Creator God who chose them.
  • He chose Abram and called him out of Ur.
  • He chose Israel to be the people through whom He would bless the nations of the world.
  • He chose to provide a means to enter into covenant with Him.
  • He chose to punish with exile.
  • He chose to restore the remnant.
  • He chose to send the Messiah to inaugurate the Kingdom of God and begin the “breaking in” of new creation.
Hailstones, earthquakes, military strategy, invasion, pride, hate, etc., were merely a means for God.
  • His purpose was to work out His covenant faithfulness in His redemptive history, which culminated with Jesus (and ultimately with His 2nd coming).
  • The means are, in many ways, incidental.

So we also reject the one-dimensional, “lever-puller” “God of the Gaps”.
  • The “God of the Gaps” fails to account for the trajectory of 1500+ years of Israelite history.
  • The “God of the Gaps” does not account for the profound differences between Israel’s Yahweh and the god’s of its neighbors.
    • The similarities are insignificant.
    • It is the differences that are mind-blowing (see anything by John Walton).
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for fulfilled prophecy – like Isaiah 53.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the massive mutations in Judaism that occurred in first century Palestine.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for resurrection.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the Church.
  • The “God of the Gaps” can’t account for the martyred apostles.
  • And neither can science!

Yahweh, however, is big enough to create a universe that is rationally intelligible (science – laws of nature), and yet at the same time can be sovereignly directed by Him to accomplish His supernatural purposes.
  • And in the case of our the book of Joshua, He did this with:
    • Hailstones and thunderstorms
    • Military strategy
    • An occasional special revelation – Divine Warrior
    • Or by transforming hearts