But these five kings had fled and hidden themselves in a cave at Makkedah. And it was told Joshua, saying, “The five kings have been found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” So Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them. And do not stay there yourselves, but pursue your enemies, and attack their rear guard. Do not allow them to enter their cities, for the LORD your God has delivered them into your hand.” Then it happened, while Joshua and the children of Israel made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they had finished, that those who escaped entered fortified cities. And all the people returned to the camp, to Joshua at Makkedah, in peace. No one moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel. Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings to me from the cave.” And they did so, and brought out those five kings to him from the cave: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. So it was, when they brought out those kings to Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said to the captains of the men of war who went with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” And they drew near and put their feet on their necks. Then Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” And afterward Joshua struck them and killed them, and hanged them on five trees; and they were hanging on the trees until evening. So it was at the time of the going down of the sun that Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees, cast them into the cave where they had been hidden, and laid large stones against the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day. (Joshua 10:16-27)
The Five Kings
Canaan was a land filled with the people of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites. Long before Joshua brought the nation of Israel into the land of milk and honey God had promised Abraham the land would be given to his descendants. When the Lord made the promise to Abraham He told the patriarch the iniquity of the people had not become full or complete. The people of the land were wicked but at the time of Abraham their judgment was not to a place God would destroy them. When Joshua came on the scene, this all changed. After four hundred years the people of Canaan had become so wicked the wrath of God was brought upon them by the hand of the Israelite nation. Joshua was the instrument of the Lord to bring His wrath upon the nations that required the righteous judgment of God. When the spies entered Jericho as the first city to be destroyed by the Lord, Rahab told the men she had heard about the power of God over the Egyptians forty years earlier. The people were terrified of the Israelites. Jericho fell through the power of God and then the city of Ai was destroyed. When the king of Jerusalem heard what happened to Jericho and Ai and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had sued for peace (through trickery), he sought the help of four other kings to fight with him against Israel. The five kings made war against the city of Gibeon because they had made peace with Israel. Men from the city sent word to Joshua to come help them against the kings of the mountains and the Israelites came with a great slaughter against the five kings. Seeing the great slaughter, the five kings hid in a cave. Finding the kings hiding Joshua shut up the cave with large stones until the battle was finished. Returning to the cave, the son of Nun called for the kings to come out and told his captains to place their feet on the heads of these kings. There would be no mercy for these wicked and vile men. Joshua tells the nation not to fear these people who dwell in the land of Canaan because as seen by the five kings subjected to the will of God, there is nothing to fear. He then executes the kings hanging their bodies for all to see until evening. Their bodies are thrown into the cave they were hiding and secured with large stones. The writer includes the cave remained sealed in the day of his writing the book of Joshua.
The wrath of God is clear and demonstrative. There was never a time when the Lord indiscriminately destroyed a nation or people. For modern senses the slaughter of the people and the execution of five kings seem harsh and cruel. The five kings were men of corrupt morals, practices and everything about their nations evidenced a complete disregard for the holiness and sanctity of God. Joshua and the people of Israel were carrying out a plan of judgment upon a society that had become so wicked they needed to be punished and God did just that. There are consequences to sin and in the mind of God He chose to bring judgment upon the nations of Canaan during the conquest by Israel to show His power, His might and His glory. Many generations later the Lord would bring the nations of Assyria and Babylon against His own people to do exactly what they had done to the inhabitants of Canaan. Judgment is not measured by the Lord to a certain sect of people disregarding others but to all who disobey Him and disregard His holy name. The nations of Canaan had filled their lives with gross immorality and the Lord brought judgment upon them through the hand of Joshua. When the Assyrians and Babylonians came against Israel and Judah, the prophets preached repentance to the children of Israel but the people refused. Their judgment came in the same manner as God’s wrath against the five kings and save a remnant that returned seventy years later, the nation was destroyed. Same God, same problem and same punishment.
Five kings tried to hide from God but to no avail. Judgment was required and the people made certain it was carried out in accordance with the will of the Lord. The story of the five kings reminds us that all sin is an abomination to God and whether on a national level or individual response, His wrath will be brought to bear. There is a time of completeness when there is no return. When Abraham walked among the people of Canaan the iniquity was not quite full. Joshua came to the land and the cup was full. God’s wrath was meted out against the wicked nations and His glory was established. History is replete with examples of nations who no longer stand because their wickedness had come full circle. God’s view of sin has never changed. His will is carried out through the centuries against those who become so wicked and vile they can no longer be accepted in the eyes of the Lord. Hiding in a cave will not deter the Lord from His work. So goes the nation that does not believe in God. A day of reckoning is set for all the nations that deny God and worship the gods of this world. Do not be afraid nor be dismayed; be strong and of good courage. The Lord fights for you and keeps His word.