by Sam E. Stone
As the children of Israel prepared to attack Jericho and enter the promised land, they knew their success would not come through a large well-trained and well-equipped army. Nor would it be accomplished because they executed skillful battle maneuvers created by experienced military officers. Instead, their victory would come from the Lord! When the spies returned from Jericho they told Joshua, “The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands” (Joshua 2:24).
The succeeding chapters describe the nation’s miraculous crossing of the flood-swollen Jordan River on dry ground (3:17). This was reminiscent of when Moses parted the Red Sea and the people crossed it—also on dry ground (Exodus 14:16). In the days that followed, Israel reinstituted the ceremony of circumcision, celebrated the Passover, and ate the last of the manna. Then the Lord appeared to Joshua (5:13-15), telling him, “As commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
The Lord assured Joshua, “I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” He then told the children of Israel what to do. They were to march around the walled city once with all of the armed men. They were to repeat this action each day for six days. Seven priests were to carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark of the covenant. The presence of the ark was the sign that God himself was going before his people, to lead them against their enemies. Hugh J. Blair notes, “Thus by their own preparations and by the sight of the ark going before them the people were reminded that this was no enterprise of their own in which they were engaged.”
On the seventh day they were told to march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. These horns were used both for religious and military purposes (see Exodus 19:13; Leviticus 25:9; 1 Samuel 13:3). Using the horns in this way gave special religious significance to the victory. As the first and largest of the Canaanite cities, the conquest of Jericho was extremely significant.
When the day of confrontation came, Joshua was an early riser! The priests were ready to carry the ark. Others carried the trumpets, and marched before the ark. This “armed guard” (Joshua 6:7, 9) served as a royal escort for the ark. A rear guard of priests followed as well. This practice was repeated again on the second day. Then Scripture tells us, They did this for six days.
The people carefully followed all of Joshua’s instructions. When the seventh day came, it was time for the final march around Jericho. The rams’ horns (trumpets) blasted loudly at the proper moment. Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!” Previously he had told them, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” (v. 10). They did just that!
Joshua reminded the people that everything in the city was to be devoted to the Lord. In other words, all the people and all their possessions belong to God. Robert Hubbard explains, “The heart of herem is Yahweh’s exclusive ownership, an ownership not subject to redemption. To violate that ownership—to keep, rather than devote, herem—is tantamount to robbing Yahweh and seriously imperils the violator (Joshua 7:15; cf. Leviticus 27:28f).” No plunder was to be taken by the conquering army, in contrast to what was considered usual in the Middle East.
The sole exception was noted by Joshua: “Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.” Then he cautioned, “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.” Everything in the city was to be slaughtered—both humans and animals.
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted. When they gave this loud shout, the wall collapsed. Then all of the men charged straight in and took the city. None could doubt that God gave them the victory! “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:23).
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.