All games have their rules for competition and to play ‘by the rules’ is the only legitimate way to win. To not play by the rules bring disqualification or forfeiture. So, in order for us to win in life, we must ‘play’ by God’s rules. Joshua and the Israelites had to realise that they could achieve victory over Jericho only by doing just exactly what God had said, no matter how crazy it seems.
The city was strategically located to control the ancient trade route from the east to Palestine. It only covered seven or eight acres and it was the central fortified city of the Canaanites. Originally it was thought Jericho had 2 walls, one 6 feet thick and the other 12 feet thick, separated by a space of 15 feet.
Later discoveries seem to indicate the walls were made of mud-brick and have eroded away, leaving no real evidence of where they were. It controlled the ascent into the mountains, the top of which was controlled by Ai. For Israel to move in and take control of Canaan, these two cities would have to be taken first.
It must be seen though, that the victory here belongs completely to God as the old kid’s songs says, ‘Joshua `fit’ the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho, Joshua `fit’ the battle of Jericho, And the walls came a-tumblin’ down!’ However, Joshua didn’t fight this battle at all.
God told Joshua that He had given Jericho into their hand, in other words, the victory was won without ever ‘firing a shot.’
All battles of life, all of our Jerichos, can be won if we fight according to God’s instructions.
There is fear inside Jericho, a real fear that it would fall and so the city was tightly shut. The people had heard of the earlier events of Israel’s leaving Egypt and their journey toward Canaan. No doubt they had heard of the crossing of the Jordan and now they have locked the city up tight because their fear was so great that no one went out and no one came in.
Jericho will fall, God says, ‘I have given Jericho into your hand.’
The tense of the Hebrew word for ‘give’ is what is called prophetic perfect, describing a future action as if it were already accomplished and it was going to forcibly fall.
Joshua wasn’t free to choose his own battle plan, if Joshua made all the plans, he would be the one considered as bringing about the victory. If the army attacked and won, they would be tempted to trust in themselves, and so this has to be done God’s way.
God laid out the plans, the men of war would circle the city once for six days and seven priests carrying seven trumpets would march before the ark of the covenant. On the seventh day, they would march around seven times and when the trumpets were blown, the people would shout and the wall would fall.
In this, we see several sevens, the number seven often symbolised, completeness or perfection. This, it might be said, was the perfect plan for complete victory. The trumpets were jubilee trumpets used in connection with Israel’s solemn feasts to proclaim the presence of God.
Joshua passed the instructions on to the people and the seven priests carrying 7 rams’ horns were to go before the ark of the covenant. The armed men were to go before the ark and the people were to keep silent as they marched around the city.
The people followed the instructions, the seven priests blew the seven trumpets, and the soldiers marched before the ark. After circling the city, they returned to camp, this went on for six days but on the seventh-day things were different.
The people marched around seven times instead of six and when they finished the 7th time Joshua told them, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.’
The city is under God’s control, Rahab and all with her shall live, the people shouted and the walls fell and the soldiers then went up into the city and destroyed everything.
They might have had some problems following the instructions, perhaps there were some wanderers who were saying by the end of the second day, ‘Nothing is happening, why are we doing this?’
The activists were probably saying, ‘Let’s just go up and attack the city.’
Perhaps some questioned the strategy, what was to prevent the men from firing arrows at them from the wall? Or, what was to prevent the men from coming out of the city and attacking Israel? But, God’s plan would work best. It tested the faith of Joshua, it tested the obedience of Israel and it struck fear into the hearts of the people of Jericho.
The city is now God’s and they devoted the things to God, this could be a type of firstfruits, the firstfruits were those that ripened first, these being looked upon as an earnest of the coming harvest. However, more than just the first fruits were dedicated to the Lord.
Firstfruits could be offered by, the nation, Leviticus 23:10+17, individuals, Exodus 23:19 / Deuteronomy 26:1-11. Jericho was dedicated to the Lord in anticipation of receiving the whole land.
Some have argued that the account of Jericho’s destruction places the Bible in a morally compromising position. It is alleged that the slaughter of the city’s women and children, Joshua 6:21 is the wrong reflection upon a benevolent God. These objections simply are not valid. While the extermination of an entire population may seem excessively cruel when viewed as an isolated incident, other factors shed light on that situation.
The destruction of Canaan’s heathen tribes was justified in view of their utter abandonment of moral restraint. The ancient evidence indicates that they practised child sacrifice, religious prostitution, sodomy, etc. A people can reach a state of such deep depravity that the justice of God demands punishment.
Their destruction had not been rendered impetuously. Jehovah had been patient with them for more than five hundred years; finally, their cup of iniquity ran over and the time for judgment came, Genesis 15:16. This type of punishment was implemented on a rather limited basis, principally, upon the tribes of Palestine.
This was due to the fact that God had chosen Canaan as the place where the Hebrew nation was to be cultivated in view of the coming Messiah, the Saviour of the world. It was an example of moral surgery for the benefit of all mankind.
And it is still true that these Old Testament narratives illustrate the fact that innocent people (e.g., infants) frequently have to suffer the consequences of evil acts which others generate, due to the kind of world in which we live.
This should motivate us to want a better state wherein wickedness does not exist. And so, though such cases as the fall of Jericho may entail some difficulty, the problem is not impossible to understand why it happened.
The promise to Rahab was kept, and everyone with Rahab was brought outside the city safely. Her faith resulted in her own salvation as well as that of several other people and so she dwelt with the children of Israel. The city was burned, and everything was completely destroyed. The items of silver, gold, bronze, and iron were put into the treasury of the Lord.
But notice the city was cursed, no one was to ever rebuild the walls of the city again. This did not occur until the time of King Ahab about 500 years later. Hiel the Bethelite tried to rebuild the walls, his two sons died as a result, 1 Kings 16:34. Joshua’s fame spread through the land.
Following the destruction of Jericho, Joshua pronounced an imprecation upon the ancient city. Some writers have assumed that this prophecy failed, for not many years after Jericho’s fall, one reads of people living in Jericho, Joshua 18:21 / Judges 3:13 / 2 Samuel 10:5. In fact, it is specifically called ‘the city of Jericho.’ And yet, there is no record of the ‘curse’ being fulfilled in those times proximate to Joshua’s invasion.
Well, several factors need to be noted. First, the prophetic curse did not state that Jericho was never to be inhabited. It does not even indicate that the city was never to be rebuilt. The divine prediction was simply this: the man who attempts to rebuild Jericho, as a fortress city, ‘set up the gates of it,’ Joshua 6:26, would be the recipient of the divine curse.
The fact of the matter is, five and a half centuries later, during the reign of Ahab of Israel, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho as a fortress. And, precisely as Joshua had declared, he lost his oldest son when the foundation was laid, and his youngest son when the gates of the city were set up, 1 Kings 16:34. The prophecy was fulfilled. There is no discrepancy in the Bible record.
God expects us to do our part, God expects reverent obedience, and God expects us to be patient.