Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho
A. Obedience before the fall of the city of Jericho.
1. (1-5) Instructions for the battle.
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”
a. Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel: Jericho itself was on full alert; from a human perspective, this would be a hard, if not impossible, battle. Yet from God’s perspective, the battle was already over, because He can say to Joshua I have (in the past tense) given Jericho into your hand.
i. Up to this point everything had been more or less preliminary and preparatory. Now the real task before them must be faced and tackled. The Canaanites must be dispossessed if Israel is to occupy what God has promised them.
ii. Jericho was not an exceptionally large city; but it was an important, formidable fortress city. If Israel could defeat Jericho, they could defeat any other enemy facing them in Canaan. Again, we see the wisdom of God as opposed to human wisdom, in that Israel faces their most difficult opponent first.
b. You shall march around the city: The method of warfare was one that made absolutely no sense according to military intelligence. It required total dependence on God.
i. It required great faith from Joshua because he had to explain and lead the nation in this plan.
ii. It required great faith from the elders and the nation because they had to follow Joshua in this plan.
c. The wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him: It was a plan for victory whereby it would clearly be the work of the LORD. Yet God gave them something to do so that Israel could work in partnership with God.
i. Obviously, it was something that God could have done without Israel’s help at all, but He wanted them to be a part of His work – as He wants us to be a part of His work today.
2. (6-7) Joshua tells the priests and the people.
Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” And he said to the people, “Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD.”
a. Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests: Joshua had to tell the priests because what they were asked to do was unusual. Normally, priests and the ark of the covenant did not go with Israel to battle.
b. Take up the ark of the covenant: The ark would be prominent in this victory, even as it was in the crossing of the Jordan River. Israel had to keep their hearts and minds on the LORD who was present with them, instead of putting their hearts and minds on the difficulty of the task in front of them.
c. And he said to the people: Joshua had to tell the people, because what they were asked to do was unusual. This was no customary way to conquer a walled, fortified city.
3. (8-14) The march of the first six days.
So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, “You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.” So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp. And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. Then seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually and blew with the trumpets. And the armed men went before them. But the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days.
a. When Joshua had spoken to the people: Joshua does not hesitate to do what the LORD has told him to do. Often, our delays to obey God show that we really don’t believe Him.
b. So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once: Jericho was not a large city; they could easily march around it in a day. As the people of Jericho saw the Israelites marching around their city, they probably had a sense of both awe and horror.
c. So they did six days: It took courage for Israel to do this; Israel was wide open to attack during this time, and it would have been easy for the people of Jericho to attack them from the high position of the walls.
d. So they did six days: It took endurance for Israel to do this; the march was for six days, and they had to persist in something that didn’t seem to make much sense.
e. So they did six days: In this, the helplessness of Israel was revealed; through six days of silent marching, they had a good look at the walls that seemed to be impenetrable – they knew that this was a battle bigger than they were.
4. (15-16) The march of the seventh day.
But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!
a. On the seventh day: This march took place over a period of seven days, meaning that Israel had to have marched on a Sabbath; but this would be a work of God’s sovereign grace and power, not of human works.
b. Shout, for the LORD has given you the city: The command was given for the people to shout. After the days of silence, this comes as a recognition that God would now give them what He had promised. The LORD has given you the city!
5. (17-19) The command to destroy the city and to save Rahab is given.
“Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.”
a. Only Rahab the harlot shall live: Joshua is careful to take care of Rahab. Her faith in the living God would find support from God’s people.
b. By all means abstain from the accursed things: Joshua had to command the people of Israel to stay away from the accursed things. By this, he means the idols and things associated with the demonic and depraved worship of the people of Canaan.
i. The severe judgment that is brought against Jericho, and all of Canaan didn’t come because they were in the “way” of God’s people. It came because this was a people who were in total rebellion against God and in league with the occult, as the artifacts recovered from this period demonstrate.
c. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD: All the valuables belong to God; Jericho is the “first fruits” city of Canaan, and so the valuables are set apart for the treasury of the LORD.
B. The taking of the city of Jericho.
1. (20-21) The walls come down and the city is destroyed.
So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.
a. The wall fell down flat: This miracle was beyond normal expectation; no other city had been conquered this way. Israel couldn’t depend on their prior experience or what had happened for others in battle. All they had was God’s promise (Joshua 6:5), but they believed that promise and acted according to that belief.
i. We shouldn’t be surprised when God fulfills His promise, but we often are. We wonder if the Israelites were surprised when the wall fell down flat. The people of Jericho were no doubt surprised.
b. They utterly destroyed all that was in the city: Why was Israel commanded to practice such complete destruction? Because the greatest sins of the Canaanites were spiritual: When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)
i. Such judgment seems harsh to us because it is harsh – and we must recognize, that at unique times, God has commanded that such judgment be made. It may happen either through an army that He has used (as is the case here), or through judgment that He directly brings (such as in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 19:24-25).
c. They took the city: Israel took, after God had given (Joshua 6:2). It was clear that God gave, but that Israel had to take by obedient, persistent faith.
i. So it is with all victory in the Christian life – God gives it to us in Jesus Christ; but we must take it from Him by obedient, persistent faith.
2. (22-25) Finishing up the battle.
But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
a. Bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her: Rahab and her household were saved. They coupled their faith in the God of Israel with a willingness to follow through on what God’s messengers told them to do: stay at the house with the scarlet cord hanging from the window (Joshua 2:17-19).
b. They burned the city and all that was in it with fire…. Joshua spared Rahab the harlot: In this, we see a contrast between judgment and salvation. All of Jericho heard about the God of Israel (Joshua 2:8-11), but only Rahab responded positively in faith towards God with that knowledge.
c. So she dwells in Israel to this day: Thisshows that Joshua was written at the time of Joshua; this was not the fanciful re-construction of an imaginative writer working centuries after the fact.
3. (26-27) Joshua curses the man who would re-fortify Jericho.
Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.
a. Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho: This was fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34, which says In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
b. This completes the story of Israel’s victory at Jericho. We can learn from the things that marked their victory.
· Faith: Joshua and Israel believed the battle plan.
· Obedience: Joshua and Israel followed the battle plan exactly.
· Courage: Israel followed the battle plan despite danger.
· Endurance: Israel followed the battle plan over a period of time, even when it seemed that nothing was happening.
· Trust: Israel did not rely on carnal scheming and worldly methods; their trust was in the LORD, not in human ingenuity.