1Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in.
1Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and no one came in.
Jericho is an impressive fortress, seemingly impregnable. The city is hermetically closed to the Israelites. Jericho is a picture of the world as the system used by Satan to prevent us from taking possession of the land with the result that we will go our way as earthly minded Christians. Jericho means ‘fragrant’. It is a city where it is pleasant to stay. She is attractive because of her palms. But Jericho is near the wilderness and the Dead Sea. The attractiveness is deceptive.
What is my Jericho? That could be my position, or my wife or husband, parents, career, hobby. It can be the human institutions that regulate the faith community in a human way. These may all be things that prevent us from taking possession of our heavenly blessings. This Jericho must be overcome.
2The LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king [and] the valiant warriors.
This verse stands in the so-called prophetic perfect tense. The promise is certain. God doesn’t say ‘I’ll do it’, but ‘I’ve done it, the city is all in your power, as sure as if it already is in your possession’. Rahab believed this (Jos 2:8-98Now before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof,9and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.). God’s certain promises always form the starting point for an act of obedience. Promises are a great encouragement to go in confidence on Him the way He proposes us, no matter how foolish that way may be in the eyes of the world. On that road, the Lord’s presence will be proclaimed loudly, as it is represented by the trumpets.
The people only have to believe and obey. First obedience, then strength, that is the order of God.
3You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. 4Also 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. 5It 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.”
The land of peace is first a land of struggle. The people are prepared for this struggle in the previous chapter. Now they have to fight, but in God’s way. No swords are drawn in this chapter. Here we learn: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2Cor 10:44for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.).
Before the battle begins, God first wants to teach His people clearly that fortresses like Jericho can only be brought down by His power. His people can do nothing to let the walls fall down. That does not mean, however, that the people should just stay at home. The fact that they marched around the wall by order of the LORD did not contribute to the fall either. They were impressed by the strength of the wall. Humanly speaking, that is to be discouraged by it.
Why do they have to march around the city for seven days? The goal is that the people will learn both their own inability and the power of God. They should not look at the wall, but at the ark. That is where the strength lies. We must learn to trust this power, that is to believe. The wall has fallen by the power of God and the power of faith, for “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days” (Heb 11:3030By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.).
The walls do not fall immediately after they have marched around them for the first time. Perseverance is needed. And this perseverance must have a perfect work (Jam 1:44And let endurance have [its] perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.; cf. 1Kgs 18:43-44a43He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times.44It came about at the seventh [time], that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare [your chariot] and go down, so that the [heavy] shower does not stop you.’”). This also applies to the problems in our lives that are insurmountable for us.
Then the people are told to shout before the walls have fallen down. This shows us that we will already thank you for the victory that is given, even before the victory has taken place. After they have shouted, the walls fall down.
The trumpets are “of rams’ horns”, i.e. trumpets of the horns of rams. The rams’ horn announces the year of jubilee. The year of jubilee is the fiftieth year in which slaves are released and territories regain their original ownership (Lev 25:8-138‘You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, [namely], forty-nine years.9You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.10You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family.11You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in [from] its untrimmed vines.12For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field.13‘On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property.). By using this horn in the conquest of Jericho we see that this conquest is not so much a military matter, but more a religious one. This is also evident from the priests who play a more important role here than soldiers.
We need soldiers, but first it comes down to priests. This is also evident in the silver trumpets: “The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations. When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies” (Num 10:8-98The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations.9When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies.; cf. 2Chr 13:12a12Now behold, God is with us at [our] head and His priests with the signal trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the LORD God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”). Priests are in the presence of God with their sacrifices. Coming from the presence of God, they represent a royal priesthood to the world around them. They give spiritual guidance to the people.
A clear sound must be given on the trumpet, otherwise the hearers will not know what to do. “For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?” (1Cor 14:88For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?). Those who have a word for the church as prophets from God’s presence must be priests. They are able to lead the people of God in the struggle even in difficult circumstances. The Word of God makes clear what our ‘Jericho’ is and how we have to fight and what gives us faith and makes us shout when there is nothing to shout for unbelief.
6So 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.” 7Then he said to the people, “Go forward, and march around the city, and let the armed men go on before the ark of the LORD.”
Joshua – here he is a type of the power and insight of the Holy Spirit in the believer – is assured of success and therefore acts without hesitation. There is no human explanation for the fall of Jericho. It can only be attributed to the power of God who through faith works for His people.
8And it was [so], that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. 9The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while they continued to blow the trumpets. 10But 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!” 11So 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.
While going only the trumpets ‘speak’. This is the speaking of the priests to God and to the people. The people themselves may not say a word and must remain silent (cf. Exo 14:1414The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.”). There is no own contribution to this fight. Each own contribution is a proof of unbelief and a denial of the fact that God has given the only right strategy with the certain result of victory. That is also Peter’s fault if he rebukes the Lord Jesus after He has spoken of His suffering and rejection as the way of God (Mt 16:21-2321From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.22Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid [it], Lord! This shall never happen to You.”23But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”).
All the actions of the first day are represented in this one word: “So he had the ark of the LORD taken around the city, circling [it] once” (verse 11a11So 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.). It is not about the people, but about the ark. All the strength of the people can only be found with the ark. Without the ark, as a picture of the Lord Jesus, the people are totally powerless and everything would end in a drama for the people.
The right base camp for the people is Gilgal, to which they return to spend the night. They return to that place every day. There the circumcision took place. Returning to that place every time means that after every time they set out, they must always become aware that the victory is not the result of any strength in themselves. It means in our life of faith that we always realize that in us, that is in our flesh, there is no power, but that all power comes only from the Lord Jesus.
12Now Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew the trumpets; and the armed men went before them and the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while they continued to blow the trumpets. 14Thus the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp; they did so for six days.
God could have already made the walls fall down after the first day. But a second day of marching around the city is emphasized. And as they did the first two days, they do until the sixth day. All this time, it seems that no progress has been made. Everything stays as it was. We can imagine that there must have been many consultations in the hearts of the people and inhabitants of Jericho.
15Then on the seventh day 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. 16At the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city. 17The 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. 18But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet [them] and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. 19But 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.” 20So the people shouted, and [priests] blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, 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. 21They 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. 22Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the harlot’s house and bring the woman and all she has out of there, as you have sworn to her.” 23So the young men who were spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers and all she had; they also brought out all her relatives and placed them outside the camp of Israel. 24They 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. 25However, 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.
When they have marched around the city seven times on the last day, Joshua first gives a number of orders with a view to the taking of Jericho. He does so in all peace. Maybe the inhabitants of Jericho can hear what he says. He speaks the language of faith, of the certainty of the coming victory, of faith in the action of God.
There are no negotiations with the city about surrender. The verdict is determined. The time to be saved is over. To be under the ban means for people death; for things it means separation for God. The metals silver, gold, bronze and iron are sanctified for the LORD. Thus we must learn that everything is for God, including everything we overcome in faith.
If God separates the things of the world for Himself, He can, if He wills, use them for Himself. But if man, the Christian, connects himself to this, the Lord must judge him. God does not want there to be any fellowship with something that forms the power of God’s enemy: the world and his power.
The silver and gold and bronze and iron objects are not destroyed. Gold remains gold and silver remains silver although they were found in Jericho. It is wrongly used in Jericho but it is not wrong in itself. The tabernacle was built with the gold and silver from Egypt. So is all that is in Jericho for the LORD (verse 1919But 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.”).
People can do a lot of good with electricity, but also a lot of what is evil. So it is with the thinking given to us by God. What do we think of? What does man devise? Is it with and for God or without Him? Our thinking must be subjected to God, and if the Spirit can use it, what results of it will be to God’s glory. The world always uses everything completely wrong, namely only for itself, without any thought of God.
The walls fall down flat when to the sound of the shout is heard. The invisible power of God becomes visible in the collapse of the wall. A number of physical explanations have been put forward that could have caused the fall of the wall. A naturalistic cause does not have to undo the miracle, because it remains a miracle that the part on which the house of Rahab stands, is spared. But it may also be possible that the “captain of the LORD’s hosts” (Jos 5:1414He said, “No; rather I indeed come now [as] captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”) has sent out His invisible angelic power to demolish the city wall in an instant. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb 1:1414Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?). These are all mere suggestions, for no explanation is given to us in Scripture.
The part of the wall on which Rahab’s house stands is spared. Rahab does not perish with the unbelievers because she has believed (Heb 11:3131By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.). All people in Jericho are killed because they did not in faith join Rahab. Rahab’s house is the only safe place to escape judgment of the city (cf. Heb 11:77By faith Noah, being warned [by God] about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.). Anyone who wanted to be saved had to believe the testimony of Rahab.
There is no injustice with God. Each of the people of Jericho, just like Rahab, had the opportunity to believe. God has had patience for four hundred years (Gen 15:1313[God] said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.). So He is not merciless when He brings judgment. He gives a sea of time and many opportunities to seize the salvation He offers.
After Rahab and her family are saved, they first come to a place outside the people. Cleansing must take place out first. Then they are accepted into the people. Rahab even gets a place of honor there, because she is included in the genealogy of the Lord Jesus (Mt 1:55Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse.). She is part of a people with whom she will now take the land. With joy she has taken her place in God’s people.
26Then 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 firstborn he shall lay its foundation, and with [the loss of] his youngest son he shall set up its gates.”
It takes a lot of effort and faith to break down ‘our Jericho’. We are easily inclined to rebuild this Jericho. How easily are human institutions rebuilt. We are always in danger of rebuilding what we have broken down in youthful zeal. But the price is high. Joshua has predicted how high the price is. He speaks like a prophet. His words have been fulfilled (1Kgs 16:3434In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho; he laid its foundations with the [loss of] Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates with the [loss of] his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which He spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.).
Our return to, or the re-admission of, the things of the world can become a means for our children to die spiritually. From a spiritual point of view, we will lose our descendants when we start living for the world or also for the earth. It is of no benefit to God. On the contrary, there will be a great loss, both in terms of our own life and that of our descendants.
The Spirit speaks to our hearts through this. Do we remember what we broke down in our youth? Shall we give that another chance to come to life?
27So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
Joshua’s success does not lie in his brilliant military leadership, but because the LORD is with him. So it is also written of Joseph that the LORD is with him (Gen 39:2,212The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.21But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.; Acts 7:1010and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made him governor over Egypt and all his household.) and of the Lord Jesus that God is with Him (Acts 10:3838[You know of] Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and [how] He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.). The LORD supports the whole performance of Joshua as long as he is in His way. Nothing can raise a person’s fame, or give him more real prestige, than the unmistakable proof that God is with him.
The next chapter shows what happens when you rely on your own strength. The good start is no guarantee for good progress. A victory over Jericho is no guarantee that we will not stumble at Ai.