Joshua 12 – List of the Conquered Kings
A. Kings defeated by Moses on the east side of the Jordan River.
1. (1) Introduction: kings conquered by Israel under the leadership of Moses.
These are the kings of the land whom the children of Israel defeated, and whose land they possessed on the other side of the Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the River Arnon to Mount Hermon, and all the eastern Jordan plain:
a. These are the kings of the land whom the children of Israel defeated: The land of these kings comprised Israel’s land on the eastern side of the Jordan River, on the other side of the Jordan toward the rising of the sun.
b. These are the kings: This list only seems tedious to modern readers because they are distant from these great victories. For those who received their inheritance in the land of these kings, these were essential matters that touched everyday life, answering the question: “What land belongs to Israel?”
i. “After the narrative conclusion in Joshua 11:16–23, it is as though the author were saying, ‘Here is the supporting evidence—the raw data—of what I have written about in the previous chapters.’” (Howard)
2. (2-3) The defeat of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and his land that Israel possessed.
One king was Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon and ruled half of Gilead, from Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, from the middle of that river, even as far as the River Jabbok, which is the border of the Ammonites, and the eastern Jordan plain from the Sea of Chinneroth as far as the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea), the road to Beth Jeshimoth, and southward below the slopes of Pisgah.
a. One king was Sihon: Numbers 21:21-32 describes the defeat of Sihon. The Amorites would not let Israel pass through their land – even though the Israelites promised it would be of no expense or trouble to the Amorites.
b. King of the Amorites: This incident is even more interesting considering that God hardened the spirit and made obstinate the heart of Sihon, ensuring his defeat (Deuteronomy 2:30). God hardened the heart of Sihon, so he would provoke the battle and he would lose, and Israel could gain his land.
i. It was not unrighteous of God to harden Sihon because he was not originally favorable towards Israel. God did not change Sihon’s heart to make him attack Israel. God simply gave Sihon over to what his evil heart desired.
3. (4-5) The defeat of Og, king of Bashan, and his land that Israel possessed.
The other king was Og king of Bashan and his territory, who was of the remnant of the giants, who dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei, and reigned over Mount Hermon, over Salcah, over all Bashan, as far as the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and over half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.
a. The other king was Og: This conquest was recorded in Numbers 21:33-35. This was a battle that Israel did not provoke. Yet, Israel was more than up to the challenge, and through their God they won a glorious victory.
b. King of Bashan and his territory: This victory was despite the might of this king. Og king of Bashan was noted for his size and strength. Deuteronomy 3:11 says, only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of the giants. Nevertheless, the land of Bashan became part of Israel’s territory on the east side of the Jordan River.
4. (6) The eastern lands are deeded to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
These Moses the servant of the Lord and the children of Israel had conquered; and Moses the servant of the Lord had given it as a possession to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh.
a. Moses the servant of the Lord and the children of Israel had conquered: These conquests were achieved while Israel was still on the eastern side of the Jordan River. Israel’s wars of conquest and judgment did not begin with Joshua.
b. Half the tribe of Manasseh: Half of the tribe of Manasseh lived east of the Jordan River, and half of the tribe lived west of the Jordan River. This distribution of the land is described in Numbers 32.
B. Kings defeated by Joshua on the west side of the Jordan River.
1. (7-8) A broad description of the lands and Canaanite nations conquered by Israel under the leadership of Joshua.
And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel conquered on this side of the Jordan, on the west, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon as far as Mount Halak and the ascent to Seir, which Joshua gave to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their divisions, in the mountain country, in the lowlands, in the Jordan plain, in the slopes, in the wilderness, and in the South; the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:
a. These are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel conquered on this side of the Jordan: The previous section (Joshua 12:1-6) was an overview of Israel’s conquests under Moses and on the east side of the Jordan River. Now begins the overview of what was accomplished under Joshua on the west side of the Jordan River.
i. “East of the Jordan there were only two kings, each of whom ruled a wide area with many cities. The land west of the Jordan was divided into individual city-states. Israel’s conquests on both sides of the Jordan are mentioned together here to emphasize the unity of the nation.” (Madvig)
b. These are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel conquered on this side of the Jordan: While this list may seem tedious to a modern reader, it was read with great interest by those involved in these conquests, and those who received the land and cities gained by them.
i. The importance of these lists “lies in confirming the veracity of the claims elsewhere that these lands were indeed conquered, in confirming the tribes’ claims to the lands mentioned here, and in confirming that God was faithful to his promises to give these lands to his people.” (Howard)
2. (9-24) A specific recounting of the 31 kings conquered by Joshua.
The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; the king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; the king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; the king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one; the king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; the king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one; the king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; the king of Shimron Meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; the king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one; the king of Dor in the heights of Dor, one; the king of the people of Gilgal, one; the king of Tirzah, one; all the kings, thirty-one.
a. The king of Jericho: These descriptions are also important because they make it clear that these things happened at a real time, and in real places. These are not fairy tales that begin with “once upon a time.” This history is rooted in specific places, people, and rulers.
i. This type of list also appears in other ancient writings. “Conquest lists of Ancient Near Eastern kings have been compared. Close comparisons exist between this list and those composed for Pharaohs who campaigned in Palestine.” (Hess)
ii. Tirzah “was the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel until the time of Omri (1 Kings 14:17; 15:21, 33; 16:6–24).” (Madvig)
iii. “Major sites such as Shechem and Dothan are not mentioned. Here is evidence that the conquests of the hill country are not recorded in the narratives of Joshua. The reasons for this remain speculative.” (Hess)
b. All the kings, thirty-one: As well, this list gave a way for Israel to forever remember the great things God had done for them. In written form, this list served a similar function as the memorial from the crossing of the Jordan (Joshua 4:1-9).
i. “These words refer to the extent of Joshua’s victory on the west side of the Jordan, and in their bald simplicity help us to realize at once the difficulty and greatness of what he accomplished.” (Morgan)
ii. “Sometimes in the course of human experience it is good to sit down and reflect on what has been conquered by the grace of God. Not boastfully, but with a humble and grateful heart.” (Redpath)
iii. These were kings of city-states, not nations as we think of them today. “In ancient times all kings had very small territories. Every village or town had its chief; and this chief was independent of his neighbours, and exercised regal power in his own district.” (Clarke)
c. All the kings: With all these kings conquered, with every one of these principalities and powers over the land defeated, there was no doubt that the land belonged to Israel. Nevertheless, the individual tribes still had much to possess for their own.
i. “The chosen people are now seen in actual possession of the land. The destructive part of the divine work was accomplished. The constructive purposes of God might now go forward.” (Morgan)