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The conquest of the land described in the book of Yehoshua took seven years (Erchin 13a, h/t DoubleAA).1 It is only at the end of the conquest that Yehoshua dismisses the "shock troops".

We know from 1:14 that "all the mighty men of valor" from the tribes of Reuven, Gad, and 1/2 of Manashe led the conquest, and the declaration in 1:18 (calling for anybody who rebels from this command to be put to death) sounds like they took it seriously.

So if all the men capable of fighting were with Yehoshua conquering the land, who was protecting their families on the other side of the Yarden from the surrounding peoples? Or was there a miracle and the surrounding peoples did not attack this easy target during all those years?

1 Caleb was 40 when he spied the land and is 85 now (14:10), and they were in the wilderness 38 years after the spies' mission.

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If you look at a map of the region, you will see that their territory was surrounded by vast amounts of desert other than from the direction of Caanan. And Moshe recently defeated the nearby people. –  avi Jan 5 at 7:07
    
However, I imagine that there were officers of the court as well as members from other tribes that stayed with them. –  avi Jan 5 at 7:08
    
About the region -- yes, it's mostly wilderness and had been recently cleared out, but seven years is a long time, too. I hadn't considered help from other tribes; that's a possibility. (I'd been assuming that everybody who could fight was with Yehoshua, and the special deal with Reuven/Gad/Manashe was that they had to lead the charge.) –  Monica Cellio Jan 5 at 16:01
    
Oh, and the entire tribe of Levi –  avi Jan 5 at 18:35
    
True. So, lots of possibilities -- do we have sources that support any of them? –  Monica Cellio Jan 5 at 18:37
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1 Answer 1

The phrase used is כֹּל גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל Logic would seem to imply that "garrison troops" or those who were not up the the full standards of כֹּל גִּבּוֹרֵי הַחַיִל would be able to stay behind and defend the fortified cities that had been built. Also, the "children who were just under twenty would also have been capable of fighting. Consider that the U.S. army uses the age of 18 as a cut off.

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