And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. And the Lord threw them into a panic before Israel, who struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
When we read that “the Lord threw them” (the five Amorite kings), “into a panic,” we should notice that this has a two-fold reference. The first thing indicated by the passage is that the LORD was with Joshua in such a way that he blessed Joshua’s surprise attack. When the armies of Israel show up unexpectedly and in force, the Amorites obviously panicked at the sight of Joshua’s men where they had not expected them. Since the Lord works through means, this is, in part what caused the Amorite panic. Yet YHWH gets all the credit, giving Joshua wisdom and his men strength to fight the battle after marching all night. Joshua’s men totally defeated this Amorite coalition, driving them down the important trade route (the “way of ascent”) as far as Makkedah which is another twenty miles or so. No doubt, Joshua and the soldiers of Israel fought brilliantly and bravely. The Amorite army was in full retreat.
Joshua’s training of the army and his tactics are superb, but without YHWH’s blessing this victory would not have happened. YHWH also directly intervened, sending a powerful hailstorm which killed more Amorites than did the Israelite soldiers. The very fact that the Amorite armies fled so far so fast is indicative of the shear panic that went through the ranks. Not only did the Israelite army outmaneuver the Amorite armies catching them by complete surprise, but a sudden hailstorm killed many, as soldiers caught out in the open facing gigantic hailstones would have no place to find shelter. This time it was the Amorites who broke and ran. After this amazing victory, no one in Canaan would remember Ai. It was clear to all that YHWH was on Israel’s side. While not yet complete, the victory was stunning. YHWH is the LORD. He is Israel’s shield and defender and gives his people the victory.