The city of Jericho was on lockdown. For fear of the army of Israel, the citizens of that walled city were not opening the gates for any reason, leaving it “shut up inside and outside” (v.1). If the city was going to be taken, Jericho’s massive walls would have to be breached.
As military strategies go, the “battle” plan described in verses 3-5 is one of the strangest in history. There were no weapons involved, there were no battering rams used, and there were no efforts to engage the enemy. It was more like the military presence in a parade: lots of marching and lots of noise but no fighting.
The priests were prominent in God’s plan, carrying the Ark of the Covenant and blowing their trumpets. Interestingly, the number seven was prominent in the plans, too. Seven is the number of completion and totality in the Bible, and its repetition (eleven times in this chapter) signaled the completeness of the victory God was going to bring about.
You are probably familiar with the ceremonial marching around Jericho. Companies of armed soldiers marched silently in forward and rear guards with the priests in the middle, carrying the Ark and blowing the trumpets continually. Thirteen times the Israelites circled the city, once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh. On the final lap around Jericho’s walls, everyone in the procession finally broke their silence with loud battle-cries. When they shouted, the Lord collapsed the walls inward, and they fell flat, leaving the city unprotected and open to attack. With swords drawn, the Israelite army rushed in over the crumbled walls and took the city. According to God’s instructions, every resident of Jericho was killed — except for Rahab the harlot and all who were in her house. God rewarded her remarkable faith and spared her life.
The destruction of Jericho came about because of the miraculous intervention of God. It was His power that flattened the walls, not the power of Israel’s army — all they did was march around in circles blowing their horns! They could have shot their arrows and thrown their spears at the wall, but that would have had no effect. They could have pushed against the wall, but they could not have moved it (archeologists say that it was twenty feet thick in some spots).
Sometimes God gets us into situations in which the obstacles and problems are too high and wide and strong to overcome in our own power. And then when we choose to simply trust Him, He penetrates the impenetrable, accomplishes the impossible, and wins the victory for us! What an awesome God! Are you trusting Him today?
Note: This concludes today’s post, but you may read on if you want to learn more…
I feel compelled to say something about the total destruction of the people of Jericho. Verse 21 makes it clear that with the exception of Rahab’s family everyone, young and old, was killed “with the edge of the sword.” The sheer volume of bloodshed and loss of life causes us to cringe and to ask, “Why would God command such awful actions?”
Reading this passage and considering that question causes us to see two realities in the sharpest focus. First, we see the holiness of God on display as He completely cleansed the wickedness of Jericho from the Promised Land. Their sin, and the sin of the Canaanites at large, was legendary (see Leviticus 18:3-30). In the end, the wages of Jericho’s sin was death (Romans 6:23). Ezekiel 18:20 says, “The soul that sins shall die.” Their terrible annihilations made it impossible for them to ever be an evil influence on God’s people.
Second, in the salvation of Rahab (v.17, 23, 25) we see the grace of God displayed against the dark backdrop of His judgment. Only those who demonstrated faith in the one true God were saved by His grace, while those who persisted in their wickedness and rebellion against Him were destroyed.
These harsh realities are worth facing if they give us a clearer picture of our God who is seriously holy but shockingly gracious.