The first verse of this chapter almost makes it seem as if the Captain of the Lord’s Host had told Joshua to take his shoes off, and then left him there, bowing on the ground! But verse 1 is actually a parenthetical “by-the-way” statement that gives context to the narrative, and the second verse picks up again with the conversation between Joshua and the Captain. Here in verse 1, we have the setting up of a contest between God and the men of Jericho. And when we remember Pharoah’s stubborn contest with God in the Book of Exodus, we will recall that things did not end well for him! Jericho’s inhabitants resolved that God’s people would not be their conquerors. The whole city shut itself up, for it was very strongly fortified with steep embankments and double-walls made of brick. How foolish these people were, as they hardened their hearts to their own destruction – which is the miserable case of all who rebel against the Almighty! On the other hand, however, God resolved that His people would indeed be Jericho’s masters – and quickly, too!
The Captain of the Lord’s Host gave Joshua directions as to how the city was to be besieged. No warlike preparations were to be made. Once a day, for six days, the Israelite men were to march in silence; and the Ark of the Covenant was to be carried around the city, preceded by seven priests blowing trumpets. This teaches us that God’s ministers – by the trumpet of the everlasting Gospel, which proclaims liberty and victory – must encourage the followers of Jesus in their spiritual warfare against sin, the world, and the devil. On the seventh day, the Ark was to be carried seven times around the city – attended by the men of war, still silent – while the priests blew their trumpets. This was all that they were to do. But the Lord assured Joshua that without fail, they would surely be the masters of the town before sunset on the seventh day; for when a certain signal was given on the seventh trip around the walls, all the men of war were to shout – and then the walls of the city would immediately fall flat, leaving the inhabitants exposed and defenseless! By this uncommon method of besieging the city, the Lord honored His Ark as the visible symbol of His presence; and He showed that all victories were from Him, and were totally independent of the strength or the weakness of the means that are employed.
Joshua and the Israelites obeyed the commands of the Lord. At first, the besieged inhabitants of Jericho were probably amused by the daily silent marches. But by the seventh march on the seventh day, they probably felt very secure, since nothing tremendous had happened so far. At last, however, the time came when Joshua ordered the people to let out a great loud shout, and the walls immediately crumbled and tumbled down! This was a shout of triumphant victory, and it was a shout of faith; the people believed that the walls would fall – and by this faith, the walls fell indeed! (Heb. 11:30) Herein we are reminded that when the end of time shall come, our Savior shall descend from heaven with a shout and a great trumpet-blast; and then Satan’s kingdom shall be finally and totally ruined, and all powers that oppose Christ shall be put down forever!
As for the attempts of some people to account for this event on natural grounds (such as an earthquake), they are utterly unworthy of even a moment’s consideration. It is evident that the writer of the inspired narrative intended to describe a miracle; and if we give credence to his history at all, we must believe that a miracle was truly worked here. To the Israelites themselves, it was another proof that the Lord was with them. Without any exertion on their part, the first city of the land of Canaan was given right into their hands! The Lord had made them victorious over one of the strongest of the fortified cities of the land. What reason, then, did they have for fear? A pledge was hereby offered to them of still further conquests; they only had to rely upon the arm of the Omnipotent One, and all of Canaan would belong to them before long!
Just as the people were given specific directions concerning the procedure of attack on Jericho, they were also given specific directions concerning how they were to take possession of the city. The city was to be burned to ashes; but all the money and valuable metals therein were to be taken before it was burned, and consecrated to the service of the Tabernacle. Particular caution was given to the soldiers to take heed of meddling with the forbidden spoils; if they did so, it would prove to be a curse to them. According to the Lord’s directions, all the inhabitants of the city (except Rahab’s family) were put to the sword. Rahab did not perish with the rest of the inhabitants of her city who did not believe (Heb. 11:31). She became one of God’s people; and she later became the wife of Salmon, the governor of the tribe of Judah. From this union, Boaz was born, who later married Ruth; and thus Rahab and her family were incorporated into the ancestry of our Lord Jesus (Matt. 1:5).
All these events served to magnify Joshua and raise his reputation (verse 27), because it was plain to see that God was with him indeed. Nothing can make a person’s name more truly great than to have the evidence of the Lord’s presence with him!
Lord Jesus, we thank You for being our Almighty Joshua, breaking down all the walls and resistances of our carnal nature – thereby conquering our souls, and making us Your willing captives in the day of Your power! Amen.
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illustration from a Bible card published in 1901 by the Providence Lithograph Company