The Fall of Jericho
“Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out and none came in” (Joshua 6:1). The walled city of Jericho was the first obstacle that met the people of Israel as they looked forward from the camp at Gilgal to taking possession of the inheritance, which was theirs already by title, that is, by Jehovah’s gift, but which they had to make their own experimentally by driving out or destroying the inhabitants of the land, who had become so vile in the sight of the Lord that He could no longer tolerate them. Because of their unspeakably corrupt lives the land was about to vomit them out (Leviticus 18:25). In Abraham’s day we are told that the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full (Genesis 15:16). God therefore had waited in long-suffering mercy, but now all the nations of Canaan had sunk into such depths of depravity and the land had become so utterly defiled that it could only be cleansed by judgment.
Canaan speaks, as we have seen, not primarily of heaven itself—the eternal inheritance of the believer in Christ, for there will be no foes to contest our possession there. But it speaks of our present inheritance: that rest of heart and mind which is the abiding portion of all who take God at His Word and go forward in confidence to overcome their spiritual foes. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood”—our conflict is not with men—but with wicked spirits in the heavenlies, the world-rulers of this darkness—that is, with Satan and his hosts, who control the minds of those who know not God and who would seek to hinder Christians from entering into and enjoying their privileges in Christ.
There is a life of blessing and victory which is the birthright portion of each child of God, but which many of us fail to appropriate by faith and enjoy practically because of indolence and selfishness.
Jericho stood as the barrier to Israel’s advance and had to be destroyed before the host of the Lord could move forward.
But how were they to subjugate this walled city when they had no battering ram or other engines of war whereby to make a breach in its defenses? The answer is given in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days (v. 30). Surely there never was another siege of so strange a character!
The Captain of the Lord’s host outlines the plan of procedure, as we find it in verses 2 to 5:
“And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout: and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.”
The instructions were implicit. There was no room for human schemes or approved military tactics. All was ordered of the Lord and Joshua and Israel had but to obey.
What is the Jericho that has kept many of us from fullness of blessing? With some it is a selfish ambition: the desire for fame or for success in some chosen pursuit. With others it is covetousness: the yearning to accumulate wealth and to live in opulence. With others again it is the love of worldly pleasure: the effort to find enjoyment in the vain things that the Christless crave. Only by faith can such obstacles be overcome. The frowning walls of Jericho must fall before there can be spiritual progress and enjoyment of the riches of grace in Christ Jesus.
In obedience to the Word of the Lord, Israel marched once about the city the first day, as recorded in verses 8 to 11:
“and it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the Lord, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them. And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.”
Doubtless the people of Jericho wondered at the strange sight as the army of the Lord, led by the priests with their trumpets, and the ark of the covenant, speaking of Christ Himself, marched around the city. Little did they realize that the sounding of those trumpets was both a summons to surrender and a warning of coming judgment if they refused. Such is the message God’s anointed priests are sound out to the world today.
For six days these strange proceedings went on.
“And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the Lord, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.”
Still nothing happened. The walls stood broad and high just as before and no doubt the people of Jericho congratulated themselves upon the strength of their defenses and ridiculed the folly and absurdity of Joshua and his army.
But on the seventh day the change came.
“And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout: for the Lord hath given you the city.”
Implicit instruction was given to the Israelites to keep themselves from the accursed thing when the fall of the city ensued. All that was worth preserving was to be dedicated to the Lord, even as today whatever God-given talents or wealth men have is to be consecrated to Him who gave them. No Israelite was to appropriate anything for himself. What was worthless was to be burned with fire.
“And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that were sent. And ye, in any wise, keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”
At last the long silence (save for the sounding of the trumpets) was broken. “The people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.”
So the first great obstacle to taking possession of the land had been overcome. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”
But what of the promise made to Rahab, she who hid the spies because of her faith and who asked for a true token. God had not forgotten her. Neither had Joshua. Provision was made for the protection of her and all who found shelter in her house, where the scarlet cord hung in the window.
Once more our minds turn to the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, where in verse 31 we read: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.” Her house was upon the wall and therefore exposed to grave danger, but because of her confidence in God that part of the wall fell not when the rest was destroyed. We read in Joshua 6, verses 22 to 25:
“But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had: and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.”
Thus the promise of the spies to Rahab was fulfilled and she and her father’s household were preserved alive, and she became an honored mother in Israel, for we learn in Matthew 1:5 that she was united in marriage to Salmon, a leader in Israel, and she became the mother of Boaz, who in turn became the husband of Ruth, the grandmother of King David. Thus Rahab of unsavory character before she was reached by divine grace, became an ancestress, after the flesh, of our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. How wondrous are the ways of God: how great His loving-kindness!
We notice in the following verses of our chapter that Joshua put Jericho under a curse, so that in after days it would be thought of from that standpoint—“The city of the curse.” This is what the world is and ever will be until the Lord Jesus Christ is recognized as King of kings and Lord of lords.
“And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city of Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.”
This prophecy was fulfilled long years afterwards in the days of the ungodly King Ahab, as we are told in 1 Kings 16:34. The destruction of Jericho was the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s Word given to Moses so long before and repeated to Joshua. It was evident that no enemy would be able to stand before His people—that is, Jehovah’s people—so long as they put their trust in Him and kept themselves from the accursed thing. So we are told in the last part of the chapter that “The Lord was with Joshua: and his fame was noised through all the country.”