One of the most beautiful things about Scripture is the way it unfolds and redeems itself throughout the book. It is the most perfect book of alchemy, meaning everything has purpose and somehow or another it turns back on itself and shows you the true story again as it grows through the pace of the entirety of the Bible.
At church, we’ve been studying Joshua, and last week, I had an epiphany of sorts, so I thought I would share it about kings in a cave.
Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, he said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. But don’t stop; pursue your enemies! Attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand.”
So Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely, but a few survivors managed to reach their fortified cities. The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.
Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.
Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five poles, and they were left hanging on the poles until evening.
At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the poles and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.
Every time you see a scene in Scripture, ask yourself if it sounds familiar. The above passage describes five kings who were being pursued by Israel. In this instance, the scene is gory and deadly, and many times, people do not like this passage. How, they say, could God ask Israel to kill the kings? This story has purpose within the book of Joshua and stands by itself for the purpose of Joshua, but it also has purpose within the entirety of the Bible, and now we will look at how.
The First Cave: The five kings of Joshua
First, we see five kings hiding in a cave. In this story, the kings are running from Israel and hiding in order to survive whatever Israel does to their respective kingdoms, but they cannot hide from God, and they meet their death. The cave was marked with large rocks which stood and maybe still stand as a monument to their deaths. I suppose we could assume they are evil men as they stand in opposition to the God’s will.
What other kings have hidden in a cave?
The Second Cave(s): The caves of David
The most obvious king who hid in a cave was David.
You might be unfamiliar with that story, so let me tell you about it. The first Israelite anointed as king was Saul. He was not following God, so God chose another king. This man was a boy named David. David grew up, and Saul saw that David had favor with God and that God wanted to usurp his kingship, so he took it upon himself to kill David. Many days and nights David fled for his life and hid in caves. Once Saul even came into one of the caves David was hiding in. David had the opportunity to kill him, but instead, he felt soft in his heart and merely cut the edge of Saul’s robe without killing him. Many psalms are written by David while he is hiding in a cave. They tell about how he is fleeing from his enemies and being held upright by God alone.
This is where you can begin to see a twist in the story. The five kings had fled from their enemy, Israel, and they died. Their death was marked by stones at the cave entrance. But David was fleeing from his enemy who was Saul and Saul’s men, who were against Israel and God, so he lived and was celebrated. Of note is that David spent much of his time in the cave relying upon the Lord and praying to Him. It is a place of his greatest weakness and greatest strength, because he is totally waiting on the Lord’s rescue. We have no evidence that the five kings acknowledged God in the cave.
The Third Cave: The cave of Jesus’s burial
The third and final cave that I think of is the one where Jesus was laid to rest upon His death. This cave is in direct contrast to the first of the five kings. Jesus enters the cave dead, not in hiding from evil men. He has already been pursued, caught, and killed. He is dead, and no one expects anything else to happen. A large stone is place at the entrance to seal and mark the cave. Jesus, though, defeats death and walks away from the cave alive.
These are just the three biblical images of kings in a cave that came to mind. It would be fun and worth some research to see if there are other kings mentioned in a cave and see what else there is to be gleaned from them as well.
What We Learn from the Kings in a Cave
- Men who do not acknowledge God die.
- Men who call upon the Lord’s name can be rescued, and they can find their greatest strength (Father/Jesus/Holy Spirit) in the midst of their greatest weaknesses.
- Those who know the Lord do not die, but live, even in the face of death.
- Because of the third cave, we can have the strength to live like King David, AND we can experience resurrection power.
- With God as our friend, we can offer life and mercy to others.
- No one has the power to overcome God. What He has planned will come to pass.
- It is best to stand with God and be rescued by Him.
- Do you see the alchemy and the way kings in a cave were redeemed as a result of looking at the bigger picture of the Bible narrative?
- Was this helpful, insightful, or simply obvious to you?