Joshua 15:63 says:

But the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem the Judahites could not dispossess; so the Jebusites dwell in Jerusalem beside the Judahites to the present day.

Similarly, Joshua 17:12 says:

Since the Manassites were not able to dispossess these cities, the Canaanites continued to inhabit this region.

But Joshua 23:9 says:

At your approach the LORD has dispossessed great and strong nations; not one has withstood you up to this day.

What gives? Did the Jebusites not "withstand" the Israelites? Note that back in Joshua 1:5, we have

No one can withstand you as long as you live. As I was with Moses, I will be with you: I will not leave you nor forsake you.

  • It seems Israel displaced some Jebusites, but not those in Jerusalem. Iirc David later conquered tbem. Let's see what the scholars say.
    – Bit Chaser
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 12:32
  • 1
    Are you looking for an answer (resolution) based solely on the text or are you interested in (for example) archeological evidence might exist on this matter?
    – ThaddeusB
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 1:18
  • My goal is to understand the message of the text as intended by the author(s). I don't expect that archeological evidence would help me much, because I'm inclined to think that the story in Joshua is not literal historical truth. But in principle, I'm perfectly happy with answers making extrabiblical references.
    – William Hoza
    Commented Aug 20, 2015 at 1:25
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    Scholars have spilled a lot of ink on this one; extra-biblical sources do make a contribution. Two good starting points for this literature: (1) K. Lawson Younger, Ancient Conquest Accounts: A Study in ANE and Biblical History Writing (Sheffield, 1990), Ch. 6 - "Implications" considers the problem of the "total conquest" passages. See also T. A. Clarke, "Complete V. Incomplete Conquest: A Re-Examination Of Three Passages In Joshua", Tyndale Bulletin 61.1 (2010): 89-104. HTH.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Aug 21, 2015 at 11:10
  • Joshua's speech is most likely hyperbolic in nature.
    – CMK
    Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 11:16

1 Answer 1


The resolution seems to be that the events described in 15:63 and 17:12 occurred chronologically after Joshua's speech in chapter 23. The evidence is in Judges.

Judges 1 begins with the death of Joshua in verse 1:

After the death of Joshua the Israelites consulted the LORD, asking, “Who shall be first among us to attack the Canaanites and to do battle with them?”

It's clear that all of the events described in Judges 1 took place after the death of Joshua. But Judges 1:11-15 recounts the exact story told in Joshua 15:15-19, showing that the events of Joshua are presented out of order.

The events of Joshua 15:63 and Joshua 17:12 are also specifically described in Judges 1. In verse 8, we have

The Judahites fought against Jerusalem, captured it, and put it to the sword, setting the city itself on fire.

In verse 27, we have

Manasseh did not take possession of Beth-shean with its towns or of Taanach with its towns. Nor did they dispossess the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, those of Ibleam and its towns, or those of Megiddo and its towns. The Canaanites continued to live in this district.

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