WHEN PROPERLY PREPPED FOR BATTLE, GOD’S ARMY VANQUISHES ITS FOES BY A SIMPLE VICTORY SHOUT THAT UNLEASHES SUPERNATURAL POWER AND LAYS CLAIM TO GOD’S PROMISES
Don’t forget the preparation for battle in Chapters 1-5 – that is where the victory was won;
- by being strong and courageous and obeying God’s Word;
- by having a vision for victory and avoiding the Grasshopper mentality;
- by stepping out in faith to cross the Jordan River and avoiding the Victim mentality;
- by giving all the glory to God and avoiding the Big Shot mentality;
- by putting a priority on Holiness and Worship and submitting to circumcision as the sign of the covenant
David Howard: The detail with which the account is told emphasizes the importance of this city and its destruction. It was the first city captured by the Israelites, and, as such, its capture represented the entire takeover of the land. The Israelites’ taking of other cities and their kings is compared several times to what happened to Jericho (8:1–2; 10:28,30). And at the end of Joshua’s life, when he summarized the taking of the land, Jericho was the only city he mentioned by name, even though he mentioned seven nations and several kings who fought against Israel (24:8–13).
Helene Dallaire: Deuteronomy provides one scenario for the treatment of inhabitants of towns in the Promised Land—complete annihilation (ḥērem)—and another scenario for the treatment of cities outside of the Promised Land, where peace treaties were permitted. In Jericho, all living things are to be put to death, except for Rahab and her family. Their lives are spared, and thereafter they are allowed to live among the Israelites.
J. Sidlow Baxter: This remarkable chapter sets forth in graphic type the principles by which faith works and wars and waits and wins. Faith’s first rule of action is to ascertain the will and word of God. Faith’s second rule of action is to obey that will and word implicitly. Faith’s final rule of action is to reckon on that word, and count the thing as good as done, giving glory to God in anticipation—as the Israelites gave their mighty shout of victory before the walls of Jericho had actually fallen. Faith’s principles of action, therefore, cut right across those of natural reason.
David Guzik: 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.
I. (:1-5) UNORTHODOX BATTLE PLAN
God’s ways are not man’s ways – no surprise here
A. (:1) The Enemy: Secure and Impenetrable (but Fearful)
“Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in.”
a heavily fortified, secured city
This was a closed system; no one could go out or in; no Trojan Horse was going to be the undoing of Jericho; imagine the scouts from Jericho checking out the Israelites crossing the Jordan … that should have been the strategic moment to attack … but when they saw the Jordan River heaped up … they all ran back inside their fortress and locked the doors; what terror must have filled their hearts; they had been dreading this day for 40 years; maybe the Israelites will just bypass them and move on??
Helene Dallaire: As a rule, walled cities opened their gates every day to allow the inhabitants to plow the surrounding fields, to permit foreign merchants to come in for business purposes, and to enable travelers to enter the city. Gates were closed at night for protection against intruders and during the day when the city was under siege or under attack.
Richard Hess: The reference to Jericho’s defences as tightly shut makes sense in the context of the one earlier text in Joshua which uses the verbal root ‘shut’ (Heb. sgr). It occurs in Joshua 2:5 and 7, where it is also used of Jericho, shut up so that the spies cannot escape. If the mission of these spies had been, at least in part, to seek out those who believed in Israel’s God, then the act of shutting the gates in Joshua 2 signiﬁed the ofﬁcial rejection of this opportunity. The shut gates in 6:1 serve the same purpose. Jericho has refused to hear the message of Israel, proclaimed in the great deeds of the exodus, in the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan, and in the military victories that had already occurred. The act of shutting forms a physical barrier to Israel’s divinely ordained movement to take possession of the land. As with the natural barrier of the Jordan, it must be overcome. If Israel is to realize the promises of God, Jericho’s gates must be opened. In this sense, the exception of Rahab is symbolically paralleled by her window, the one opening to Jericho which is not ‘shut’ against the Israelites.
B. (:2) The Promise: the Gift of Victory and Conquest over Powerful Foes
“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.’”
It was evident to all that Jericho did not have the stomach to come out and fight; confirmation of the report of the spies from chap. 2 that the people in the land were living in fear of the God of Israel
Van Parunak: After the preparation comes the battle.
- It is a mistake to think that we can succeed in battle without the threefold preparation of salvation, discipline, and submission.
- It is equally a mistake to expect that faithfulness in these three areas will yield a life free from conflict and opposition. Just the opposite: the purpose of these is to equip us as the Lord’s Host to fight his battles under his direction.
C. (:3-5) The Game Plan
- (:3) Six Days of Obedient Repetition – Victory Parade
“And you shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days.”
John Schultz: We may ask the question why God wanted this campaign to stretch out for seven days. If it was a matter of light conquering darkness, why did the walls of Jericho not come down when the parade of the priests with their trumpets and the ark and the people encircled the city the first time? One of the reasons must have been that God gave the inhabitants of Jericho a whole week to repent. One wonders what the people of Jericho must have thought about the sight of Israel’s army marching around the city. The first day they may have reacted with fright, which diminished as the days went on. By the seventh day when nothing had happened, fear must have subsided and made place for mockery. On the last day of grace they must have thought it was all a joke. Their reaction was probably like Lot’s sons-in-law in Sodom about whom we read: “Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledge to marry his daughters. He said, ‘Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!’ but his sons-in-law thought he was joking.” But God mocks those who mock Him.
- (:4) Seventh Day of Intensified Activity
“Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the
ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven
times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.”
Gordon Matties: The number seven indicates the ancient notion of completeness. Thus, just as the seven days of the Passover celebration indicated the complete preparation of the people, here the seven days of walking around the city gives the sense that this task too will be completed.
- (:5) Climactic Conquest
“And it shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn,
and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout
with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.”
Did the wall fall inward or outward??
David Howard: God’s instructions to Joshua about the taking of Jericho contain no reference to military strategy but rather indicate that it is essentially to be a ritual ceremony. God’s words consist of an encouraging assurance to Joshua (v. 2), instructions for Israel’s part in the episode (vv. 3–5a), and a statement about the amazing results (v. 5b).
Robert Hubbard: The connection between the people’s cry and the fall of Jericho seems fitting in two respects. It represents the people’s participation, however limited, in Yahweh’s war; the victory is their victory, too. It also symbolizes that the land—here personified by the city of Jericho—will, indeed, become theirs.
II. (:6-14) SIX DAYS OF OBEDIENT REPETITION – THE VICTORY PARADE OF THE ARMY OF GOD
A. (:6) Ark of the Covenant Remains the Focus
“So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark
of the covenant, and let seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns before
the ark of the Lord.’”
David Guzik: 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.
B. (:7-9) Armed Men Leading the Procession and Guarding the Rear
C. (:10) Restrained Silence Leading Up to Climactic Shout of Victory
“But Joshua commanded the people saying, ‘You shall not shout nor let your
voice be heard, nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell
you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.’”
Palau: Don’t Talk So Much
Can you imagine asking a million and a half Israelites to keep quiet? Can you imagine that? They were simply supposed to keep their mouths shut and walk around the city. Silence before God! What a rare commodity! How difficult this is to achieve. If we’re not speaking verbally, then there are a thousand mental voices inside our thoughts, each vying for the last word. Listen to God? How can He possibly get a word in edgewise?
Gordon Matties: In this impressionistic picture of the activities, why does Joshua command that the people be completely silent (nor shall you utter a word) until he calls for a shout (v. 10)? The silence certainly emphasizes the solemnity of the ritual event, with only the sound of seven trumpets punctuating the march. The word used for shout is mentioned in other biblical texts as a victory shout (in relation to God’s kingship, in Pss 47:1-3; 60:8; 95:1, 2; 98:4, 6; or victory over enemies, in Pss 60:8; 108:9; cf. Jer 50:15). Whereas a military attack might include a similar shout, here the shout is not accompanied by an attack. The only human activity involved in bringing down the walls is a word (Heb. dabar), prohibited in verse 10, and articulated only in the shout of victory.
D. (:11-14) Six Days of Repetition Recounted
- (:11) First Day Recounted
“So he had the ark of the Lord taken around the city, circling it once;
then they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.”
- (:12-14) Days 2-6 Repeat the Identical Process of One Circuit Around Jericho
III. (:15-21) SEVENTH DAY OF INTENSIFIED ACTIVITY AND CLIMACTIC CONQUEST
A. (:15) Seven Circuits on the Seventh Day
“Then it came about on the seventh day that they rose early at the dawning of
the day and marched around the city in the same manner seven times; only on
that day they marched around the city seven times.”
Israelites should have been tired out by now …
City encompassed about 9 acres – you could walk around it in half an hour
Schaeffer: Since Jericho was a small city, as was normal for the walled cities of that time, the Israelite army was large enough to completely encircle it. So by the time the first troops had marched around the walls, the last troops would just be starting. On the seventh day when the army cried out and the walls fell, all that the soldiers would have to do is march straight ahead to the center of the city and thus capture it from all sides at once.
B. (:16) Climactic Shout Expressing Confidence in Victory from the Lord
“And it came about at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets,
Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.’”
C. (:17-19) Valuable Loot Devoted to the Lord – Warning about the Ban
- (:17) Rahab and family the only exception
“And the city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the
Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall
live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.”
- (:18) Prophetic Warning Against Covetousness and its Consequences
“But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, lest
you covet them and take some of the things under the ban, so you would
make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.”
- (:19) Valuables Devoted to the Lord
“But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to
the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”
Helene Dallaire: As per the narrator, ḥērem is instituted at Jericho to prevent the Israelites from being contaminated by the belongings of the Canaanites. The consequences for disobeying the orders related to the “ban” were serious, not only for the individual who committed the offense but also for the family of the sinner and for the whole camp of Israel. As we will see in the next chapter, Achan mishandled the “devoted things,” and as a result, he and his family were stoned and burned to ashes. After the conquest of Jericho, the “devoted things” were to go into the treasury of the Lord, out of reach of the members of the Israelite community.
D. (:20-21) Climactic Conquest: Flattening the Walls
- (:20) Miraculous Victory – by Grace through Faith
“So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and it came
about, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people
shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people
went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.”
Doug Goins: Now, it wasn’t sound waves that knocked those walls down. The writer of Hebrews gives very clear commentary on the story: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days” (11:30). The apostle John expands the principle: “…And this is the victory that overcomes the world-our faith” (1 John 5:4). They walked around the walls by faith day after day. They had been given one demonstration after another that God’s word and his power could be trusted. The Lord had opened the Red Sea, defeated the Egyptian army, kept them in the wilderness, opened the Jordan River, and brought his people safely into the promised land. How could they do anything else but believe him? Even though the plans didn’t make a lot of sense to them, they could ultimately trust God. They expressed their faith by obeying the instructions that God had given to Joshua and to them. The priests, the people, and the army followed them completely.
David Howard: the great miracle of the walls collapsing is told here in one terse statement at the end of v. 20. However, this fits the general outlook of the book, that military matters belonged to God and that he would effortlessly fight Israel’s battles. Protracted attention to battle details would undermine this sense of the effortless taking of the land of Canaan. What is emphasized in this account are the ritual preparations for the battle (vv. 2–19) and the follow-up to the taking of the city, in which faithfulness to earlier commands and agreements is highlighted (vv. 22–26). The Book of Hebrews adds to this perspective: it was “by faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Heb 11:30).
- (:21) Judgmental Destruction
“And they utterly destroyed everything in the city, both man and woman,
young and old, and ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.”
Doug Goins: This is very stark, and it is disturbing. God commanded every living thing in Jericho to be killed. But isn’t our God a God of mercy? It’s one thing to kill enemy soldiers, but why kill women and children, and even animals? In terms of historical context, it’s important to know that this commandment was not a new one. God had given this word to Moses years earlier. Deuteronomy 7 and 20 spell out God’s law for the nation of Israel regarding holy warfare on God’s behalf. That law made a clear distinction between attacking cities that were outside the land and attacking cities that were inside the land of Canaan where Israel was to dwell. Before they would besiege a city that was outside the land of Canaan, they were to offer a truce to the people. If the people responded to the offer of peace and surrendered, they were to spare the lives of the people. But the people of the land of Canaan were to be destroyed completely, their cities burned. Why this horrible demand?
There were two reasons, in summary. First of all, the civilization in Canaan was completely wicked and debased. . .
The second reason that the Canaanites were to be destroyed was that they had been given plenty of opportunity to repent and turn to the Lord, as Rahab and her family did.
IV. (:22-25) SAVING FAITHFUL RAHAB (AND FAMILY)
A. (:22-23) Rescuing Rahab’s Family
B. (:24) Burning the City (with the exception of the valuable metals)
“And they burned the city with fire, and all that was in it. Only the silver and
gold and articles of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.”
C. (:25) Perpetual Testimony of Rahab
“However, Rahab the harlot and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua
spared; and she has lived in the midst of Israel to this day, for she hid the
messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”
Van Parunak: Fourfold distribution of the conquest, showing how completely the Lord claims dominion over the conquest. Though in later cases the people sometimes are given access to the spoil, this first battle sets the expectation and the baseline. The land is the Lord’s; they are simply his instruments in conquering it.
- Rahab and her family spared, because she hid the messengers.
- All other living things put to death.
- All inanimate wealth taken into the tabernacle treasury.
- Even the real estate excluded from future use. Joshua curses anyone who would rebuild the city. 1 Kings 16:34 reports that in the days of Ahab, a particularly wicked king, someone ignored this curse and did try to rebuild, with disastrous results
(:26-27) CONCLUSION: LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES OF VICTORY
A. (:26) Curse on Resurrection of our Foes
“Then Joshua made them take an oath at that time, saying, ‘Cursed before the
Lord is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho; with the loss of his
first-born he shall lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son he
shall set up its gates.’”
When our spiritual enemies have been defeated, don’t ever backslide and give them another foothold in our lives.
Rea: The curse was a prohibition against refortifying Jericho, not against inhabiting the site (cf. Josh. 18:21; Jud 3:13; II Sam 10:5). It was fulfilled during the reign of Ahab, when Hiel rebuilt the walls at the cost of his two sons (I Kgs 16:34).
B. (:27) Exaltation of the Captain of our Salvation
“So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.”
Gordon Matties: Verse 27 is both the capstone verse of chapter 6 and a hinge verse that provides the transition between this narrative and the next. It highlights the presence of the Lord in the events surrounding the taking of Jericho and celebrates the fact that the Lord is with Joshua (cf. 3:7; 4:14). The only ambiguous aspect of the verse concerns the pronoun referent in the phrase his fame (lit., the report of him). In Joshua 9:9 the report of him (same noun and pronoun suffix), meaning the Lord, has reached the Gibeonites. It seems likely, therefore, that the fame is first of all of Joshua, which becomes in the story of the Gibeonites the fame of the Lord. The cumulative witness of both texts underlines that the Lord was with Joshua (6:27a). Thus the theocentric focus of the Jericho story is punctuated at the end by this interpretive comment by the narrator. And it leads us into the story of Joshua 7, which focuses on the human failure in the face of divine action.
Robert Hubbard: Finally, Yahweh’s stunning victory further enhances Joshua’s public stature. It confirms convincingly that “the LORD was with Joshua” just as he promised (v. 27a; cf. 1:5). An Israelite leader can have no better reputation. It also secures Joshua’s stature among the land’s inhabitants (v. 27b; cf. 4:14). All in all, Joshua is “on a roll”—apparently, a leader so blessed and brilliant as to be unstoppable. Under Joshua, the reader expects a relentless juggernaut soon to sweep all of Canaan clean of resistance. Sadly, chapter 7 will soon show that leaders who presume upon the divine presence do so to their shame. Joshua’s triumphal moment as king of the world will soon prove to be surprisingly short-lived.