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Israel's Wars with the Giants (Cont.)
Standing 3,040 feet above sea level, this fortified city overlooked a shallow, fertile valley surrounded by rising hills. Through it ran the main highway connecting Jerusalem and parts farther north with Egypt, the Negeb, and the coastland. Joshua therefore viewed Hebron's capture as having both a strategic and a morale-breaking importance; strategic because it was the most southerly road-crossing center of the highland system; and morale-breaking because, as the principal mountain stronghold of the Anakim, its downfall would further demoralize the natives. At Joshua's command, the Israelites stormed Hebron, drove out Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, slew its king, and put all its huge occupants who could not escape to the sword.
Following the battle at Hebron, the invaders struck out across the Negeb toward Debir (modern Dhaheriyeh). It stood as a frontier town between the hill country and the Negeb, some eleven miles southwest of Hebron. Excavators say it rivalled Jericho in size. And in earlier times it apparently had been a seat of an old Canaanite culture, for it was known both as Kiriath Sepher ("City of Books") and Kiriath Sanna ("City of the Scribes"). In Joshua's day, however, many Anakim giants occupied the city. Here no trees grew, so Debir, being located on a higher elevation than the surrounding bald hills, became visible to Israel's marching legions from a long way off.
John Garstang says the protecting walls that confronted the Hebrews here "were for the most part about ten feet thick, but attained in places to as much as thirteen feet, and these were further strengthened on the outside, in characteristic fashion, by a sloping revetment of stonework. In detail of construction this masonry was less massive than the contemporary work of Shechem or Hattin, but is comparable with much of that of Jericho."114 In his excavations, the archaeologist also found clear evidence of a time when Debir thrived as a center for culture and learning--until its overthrow by the Hyksos from Egypt about 1550 B.C. But when the city was rebuilt, he writes, it "showed indications of relative poverty: the houses were poorly built and departed by open spaces containing grain pits. In this period the derelict fortifications of the earlier period were restored, and the east gate was entirely rebuilt, on the same general plan."115
After this great slaughter, the Hebrews marched on Anab. In earlier times, another people occupied this city. But the Anakim giants assailed it, wiped out its inhabitants, and made it their possession. Anab, the name of which still survives today as Khirbet Anab, stood amid the Judean hills, only a short distance from Debir. After breaching its walls, Israel's legions totally demolished the city and put to death all its giants. After this, the Hebrews likely cleared a number of giants out of the "Valley of the Rephaim" southwest of Jerusalem.117 Also about this time they probably slaughtered the remnant of the monstrous Awim, who lived at nearby Avvim. Then they captured Jerusalem, or at least that part of it that was known as the "lower city." Despite their greatest efforts, however, they were unable to dislodge the Jebusites from the "upper city." These few but determined people occupied the narrow plateau of Mt. Ophel, just southeast of Jerusalem. Bounded by the Kidron, Tyropoeon, and Zedek Valleys, Jebus encompassed no more than eleven or twelve acres. But because of its bold rock escarpments, the small city stood as an impregnable bastion, and "not to be taken without great difficulty, through the strength of its walls, and the nature of the place."118 And, indeed, it was not taken until some four centuries later, in the time of David. When Joshua attacked it, some Horim giants supposedly lived among the Jebusites.119
Against the northern cities Joshua waged war a long time. But while they were thus occupied with the conquest of upper Canaan, and bent upon cleansing it of the giants, the Anakim who had escaped the Israelites' swords during their earlier sieges in the south later returned and reoccupied Hebron and Debir, cities that were assigned to Caleb. Consequently, after the land was divided by lot among Israel's twelve tribes, some men of Judah, with Caleb at their head, returned to the south country and again came against these places.
An account of Caleb's renewed campaign against the giants who reoccupied Hebron appears in Josephus histories. After telling what great difficulty the people of Judah faced in their long siege against Jebus, or upper Jerusalem, he relates that they removed their camp to Hebron to assist Caleb against the Gibborim there. "And when they had taken it," he adds, "they slew all the inhabitants. There were till then left a race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight, and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men are still shown to this very day, unlike to any credible relations of other men."124
After retaking Hebron, Caleb proceeded southward to the re-occupied Debir (i.e., Kiriath Sepher). Upon reaching that place, he said to his chief men: "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher."125 Quick to volunteer, Othniel, a son of Caleb's younger brother, advanced with his men into the city, slew all its defiant giants, and retook it. So Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.
With Caleb's recapture of Hebron and Debir, Israel's seven-year campaign against the giants and Canaan's other inhabitants came to an end. Their many victories put the Hebrews in control of much of the country and broke the once awesome military power of its people.126 But the legions of Israel failed to exterminate or drive all the other pagan trespassers off God's land, as they had been commanded. Even a few cities remained untaken.127 Had they done as well in dispossessing all the other Canaanites as they had the giants, later Hebrew history may have followed a much different and less tragic course. But after seven long years of intense fighting and much gore, the Hebrews grew weary of war. So, assenting to their plea, Joshua gave them rest from war.
Even though these few places of resistance remained throughout the country, Israel's men of war had at least accomplished their major objective--to cleanse God's land of the Gibborim. That this cleansing was complete we learn from our chronicler. In his final summary of the campaign, he wrote: "Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained."128 But these giants who survived Joshua's campaigns and fled to the Philistines on the coast, or to Africa and other countries, were so few that they never again posed a serious threat to the children of Israel. (See Abraham and the Giants; Canaan's Anakim; David vs Goliath Jericho's Giants; Sihon's and Og's Overthrow)
Today, however, most people remember Jericho for its unique place in the annals of warfare. For here, in Joshua's day, occurred perhaps the strangest battle of all time. According to the biblical records, which have now been verified by modern archaeological work, Jericho's high, fortified walls collapsed before the Hebrews' onslaught, as if literally knocked down by the hand of God. This took place after the Hebrews, at Joshua's command, marched around the city for seven days. The sudden buckling of the walls at the end of the seventh-day's march, at the sound of the last trumpet, followed by the besiegers' mighty shout, was foretold by Joshua.
In his journal, Joshua also mentions Jericho's giants. This brief reference, recorded in Joshua 6:2, quotes the Lord as saying to him: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor." The mighty men here denotes the Gibborim, this phrasing being derived from the same Hebrew word that Moses used in Genesis 6:4 to signify the giants. Thus, Joshua indicates that when Jericho's walls fell outward and the Israelites charged over the dusty pile of rubble into the city some of the combatants they met and slew were the Gibborim. An ancient tradition, incidentally, confirms this scripture, for it relates that some of Jericho's giants escaped the doomed city and fled to Africa.130
Before its destruction, Jericho occupied a large, lush oasis, surrounded by a sunbaked wasteland where temperatures in summer-time sometimes reached 120 degrees. Crowded within its double walls were the royal residence of the king and several solidly built stone structures and public buildings that archaeologists say exhibited "excellent architectural technique." It contained both large and small dwelling places, but space was at such a premium that some houses were built across the top of the walls.131 Watered year round by a copious, bubbling spring (now called 'Bin es-Sultan), the broad extremely fertile plain round about the city yielded plentiful crops and provided groves of date palms, balsams, sycamores, and henna, for which Jericho became famous. Because of its strategic location, the city also thrived as a center for trade. Besides its various woods and agricultural crops, its merchants trafficked in salt, sulphur, copper, and bitumen, all being found in great abundance in the region around the Salt Sea. Jericho also abounded in silver and gold, and articles of bronze and iron.132 From its widespread trade, its merchants grew wealthy, and its citizens lived in comfort and safety behind its well-fortified walls.