“Just don’t rebel against Adonai. And don’t be afraid of the people living in the land — we’ll eat them up! Their defense has been taken away from them, and Adonai is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!”-Numbers 14:9
In his plea to the people to reconsider their rebellious stance toward Adonai, Joshua makes an interesting statement.
In referring to the Canaanites, he says “Their defense has been taken away from them“.
Other English Bible translations may say their “protection” has been taken away from them.
If you think about it, this is actually quite a fascinating statement and the ancient Jewish sages expressed some interesting thoughts as they pondered what exactly Joshua meant by these words.
First, let’s go to the original Hebrew.
The Hebrew word from which we get the word “defense” or “protection” is TSEL.
Literally, TSEL means “shade” as in “I’m resting under the shade of this tree“.
So literally the image being imparted is that there is some sort of divine umbrella-like covering over the land of Canaan that HASHEM is going to remove so the Israelites can take the land.
From this juncture, rabbinic discussions usually veer off into talk about divine beings or guardian angels who are assigned to protect certain nations.
Here’s an interesting fact you may have never considered before.
Scripture actually gives us very little information about angels and demons.
A lot of general ideas about this topic originate NOT from the Bible but from the commentaries of the ancient Rabbis.
Having said that however, the Scripture does give us hints about the nature of angelic beings and the roles they serve in protecting certain nations.
The following excerpts from the Book of Daniel is a perfect case in point:
“Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month,
as I (Daniel) was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris,
I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold,
a certain man clothed in linen,
whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!
His body was like beryl,
his face like the appearance of lightning,
his eyes like torches of fire,
his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color,
and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”
The passage then goes on to say…
“Then he said to me, ‘Do not fear, Daniel,
for from the first day that you set your
heart to understand, and to humble yourself
before your God, your words were heard;
and I have come because of your words.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia
withstood me twenty-one days; and behold,
Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me,
for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.
Now I have come to make you understand what will
happen to your people in the latter days,
for the vision refers to many days yet to come.’”
The Hebrew being used to refer to these princes is BENEI ELOHIM.
In these passages, we’re told that an archangel named Michael had to contend with a supernatural being called the Prince of Persia.
It is from passages like this that we get more than just glimpses that there are indeed supernatural beings who have been assigned to protect certain nations in accordance with Adonai’s will.
This may have been what Joshua was talking about.
He was saying any supernatural protection that up until this point in time was protecting the people of Canaan had been withdrawn.
Hence, there was nothing that would prevent Israel from succeeding in taking the Land.