“Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.” (Joshua 10:1-2)
The Hivite consortium consisting of Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim formed one of the largest and strongest alliances in the region. Already convinced that Israel could defeat any other of the separate groups, the alliance between Gibeon and Israel clearly moved the balance of power further in Israel’s favor.
“Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying, Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.
Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.” (Joshua 10:3-5)
Terrified of the power represented by the alliance, the five Amorite kings united in an effort to destroy Gibeon before Israel could attack them. If successful, it would reduce the threat significantly and dissuade others from allying themselves to Israel.
“And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.” (Joshua 10:6)
Strong as it was, Gibeon was not able to defend itself against such a concerted attack. Even the simplest and weakest agreement makes us responsible to those with whom we have agreed, giving them a claim on us that can force us into situations that we could otherwise avoid. Knowing they were outnumbered, Gibeon cried out for Israel’s help.
“So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.
And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.” (Joshua 10:7-11)
Though the treaty with Gibeon was something God had forbidden, it had been made. Recognizing that breaking it would involve further sin. Israel honored their commitment, and God blessed them for it. When the Israelite army unexpectedly arrived in the middle of the night, the Amorite army was driven off in disarray. In their flight to escape Israel, they crossed the path of a hailstorm God had prepared that killed more of them than the Israelite army had killed.
“Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.” (Joshua 10:12-15)
That evening the surviving Amorites were looking forward to slipping away in the darkness and escaping, but God kept the sun up for about an extra twelve hours. The event was so unusual that it was recorded by the Egyptians, and archaeologists have supposedly found some of the records.
“But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah.
And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them: And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand.
And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced cities. And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel.” (Joshua 10:16-21)
Seeing the battle go against them, the five kings who had started it deserted their troops, hiding in a cave at Makkedah. When Joshua heard it, he made no effort to attack thecave, but simply blocked the entrance with stones to keep them there while they defeated the rest of the army. With no leadership the defeat was undoubtedly easier. Finally the survivors managed to get into walled cities for protection and the people came back to Makkedah. The victory was so complete no one dared defy Israel or accuse them of wrong doing like we have seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave. And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.
And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day.” (Joshua 10:22-27)
Once the united Amorite army had been defeated and routed. Joshua went back to the cave where the kings had hidden, and opened it so the ringleaders, the five kings could be brought out and executed. Before executing them, he had each of the captains pose with their foot on the kings throats to demonstrate their complete dominance and encourage them. The five kings were killed and their bodies hanged up so everyone could see they were dead. That evening they were taken down at sunset and buried in the cave where they had hidden.