Joshua 9:1–2 reports that after the Israelites captured Jericho and Ai, the rest of the peoples of the land (except the Gibeonites; see vv. 3–27) began to unite to try to push back the advance of God’s people. Today’s passage records the first military conflict that resulted from the alliance of the Canaanite peoples.
King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem appealed to the kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon for assistance in helping to attack Gibeon. At this point, Israel controlled a swath of territory north of Jerusalem from the Jordan River almost to the west coast of Canaan, dividing the Holy Land in half. Some of the territory was theirs by military conquest—including Jericho, Ai, and the surrounding regions —and some was controlled by means of treaty—the Gibeonite cities. Either way, Israelite-controlled land was a threat to the Canaanites. So, the kings of Jerusalem and some other cities west and southwest of Jerusalem united to take land from the Israelites (10:1–5).
Once Gibeon saw the southern coalition coming, the city sent word to Joshua asking for help, and Joshua honored the treaty with the Gibeonites by marching to assist the city (vv. 6–7). The Lord honored Joshua’s faithfulness to the treaty and His word to give Canaan to Israel by promising to defeat the enemy coalition (v. 8). After an all-night march, the Israelites confronted the enemy and defeated them because God fought for His people. God threw the Canaanites into confusion, allowing Joshua to cut them down, and He rained hail on the Canaanites, killing more of them that way than the Israelites killed in battle (vv. 9–11). The lesson to the Israelites was clear—God had to fight for them if they were to subdue the enemy.
We also see that Joshua and the Israelites could defeat the enemy because God made the sun stand still (vv. 12–15). What exactly happened is not clear, but most commentators say that the sun stopped moving across the sky. Yet, since we know the earth’s rotation is what causes the sun to appear to move, some people have said that the Bible here teaches an error. This overstates things. We know the sun only appears to move across the sky, but we still talk about the sun rising and setting, describing things the way they look to us. Surely, the Bible can do so as well without affirming a false cosmology. It is also possible that God made the sun stop shining through an eclipse or other means, as the Hebrew verb for “stand” used here can also have that meaning. Either way, God intervened to give His people victory.