Scripture Reference: Joshua 5:13-6:27
Story Overview: A “man with a drawn sword” appeared to Joshua and gave him special (and very unusual) instructions on how to conquer Jericho. The priests were to carry the ark of the covenant with them as they marched around the city walls of Jericho. Soldiers marched in front of the priests and behind them. The priests blew trumpets and marched around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day they marched around the city seven times. After the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, the people shouted. Before their eyes the city walls collapsed and the soldiers overcame the city. Only Rahab and her family were allowed to live (because she had helped the spies). Joshua told the Israelites that they were to devote everything they found to the Lord. They were not to keep it for themselves.
- Suggested Emphasis:We should obey God even if we don’t understand.
The Israelites had entered the Promised Land but it was not theirs yet. Their first battle for the land was against the gateway city of Jericho. The people of Jericho had heard all about the Israelites so they “tightly shut up” their city (Joshua 6:1). There were five usual ways to capture a walled city: by going over the walls using ladders or ramps, by digging a tunnel under the wall, by smashing a hole through the wall, by laying siege until the city is starved into submission, or by some sort of trick to get the peope to open the gate.
The “commander of the Lord’s army” who appeared to Joshua (5:15) solved all of the questions of attack. Joshua only had to follow instructions (5:13-15). The commander could have been God himself because Joshua worshiped him as God and was told that the ground was holy, as Moses had been told at the burning bush. The drawn sword certainly indicates God’s intended participation in the battle. The message for Joshua was a statement of fact, as if the battle were already over.
The plan was unlike anything that an army would normally use. Anyone without faith in the Lord would have thought the plan was ridiculous. Priests were to carry the ark of the covenant, and seven priests, bearing seven trumpets of ram’s horns, were to go before the ark, blowing the trumpets continually. They were to circle the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, the men were to march around the city seven times. After the seventh circuit, the priests were to make one long blast on the trumpets. At the trumpet sound, the people were to shout loudly.
The priests were probably using “shofars”. A shofar is a horn made from the curved horn of a ram. The horn had to be hollowed out and polished before a sound could be made on it. A shofar does not work like a trumpet; you can’t play a tune on it. Instead, the shofar was used to send signals, to announce special occasions, to call soldiers to battle, and to sound an alarm.
The people did as instructed. As soon as they heard the trumpets, they shouted, and the wall fell down flat. The people charged into Jericho and captured it. Joshua instructed them to devote everything in the city to the Lord (6:17-19). They were not to keep anything for themselves. This point can be stressed because it will come up in a later lesson when it is found that one man took some items for himself and hid them (Joshua 7-8:1).
Because Rahab had previously protected Israelite spies (2:8-14), she and those in her household were spared. The Israelites knew which house was hers because she had placed a red cord in her window (following the instructions that the spies had given her). But every other living thing died when Jericho fell (6:21).
Joshua laid an oath on the city, saying that anyone who attempted to rebuild the city of Jericho would lose his firstborn in the laying of its foundations and his youngest in the setting up of the gates (6:26). This came true when Hiel of Bethel attempted to rebuild the city over 500 years later as reported in 1 Kings 16:34.
Sometimes children (and we adults) do not understand why the Lord requires certain things of us. Joshua must have been puzzled by the commands in this story. We can be assured that the Lord knows what He is doing. If we can only trust Him more!
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