New European Commentary

 

About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan


Deeper Commentary

 

Jos 6:1 Now Jericho was closely shut up because of the children of Israel. No one went out, and no one came in-
The gates which we saw shutting at dusk every day in Josh. 2 were now shut permanently. But the idea may be that God had shut them in; He was the one who closed that gate (s.w. Gen. 7:16; 19:10).


Jos 6:2 Yahweh said to Joshua, Behold, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the mighty men of valour-
The idea may have been that the king and his mighty soldiers were much feared in the area. But they were to be overcome without any fighting by Israel. The reference is to Dt. 7:24, "He will deliver their kings into your hand and you shall make their name perish from under the sky; no man shall be able to stand before you, until you have destroyed them". But this was conditional upon them not being afraid (Dt. 7:21), and believing that God had already softened them up by "the hornet" (Dt. 7:20). This is why Joshua was encouraged constantly not to be afraid (seven times in Josh. 1). It seems that he finally came to the level of faith required, although it's unclear whether Israel did. But thanks to his faith, Jericho and its king was given into the hand of Joshua personally. 

Perhaps the Lord had this scene in mind when He spoke of the strong man guarding his palace, and being overcome by one stronger than himself, i.e. the Lord Jesus, who was represented by Joshua (Lk. 11:21,22). We are those who then spoil his palace, making the nervous Israelites representative of us all, and making the victory over Jericho solely due to Joshua's faith; see above.

Jos 6:3 All your men of war shall march around the city, going around the city once. You shall do this six days-
Jericho was to be circled for six days before victory on the seventh (Josh. 6:3-5). This recalls Naaman's cure on his seventh dipping (2 Kings 5:10), and the way Elijah was only answered at his seventh prayer (1 Kings 18:43). The intention was that through the six times performing something which had no immediate answer, faith, hope and humility were elicited.


Jos 6:4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark-
LXX and :8-14 show that this was to be done on each of the six days. These trumpets were to be blown each day (:13). Literally, "trumpets of Jubilee". The allusion may simply be to the length of the blast made; or the idea may be that these were the trumpets used to announce the year of Jubilee on the day of atonement (Lev. 25:9)- announcing freedom for the slaves and landless, which is who Israel were. It could be that the trumpet blasts were to be understood by the people of Jericho as a call to repentance, which they ignored (Am. 3:6; Is. 18:3). This would then explain why the city was devoted to Yahweh in destruction which was the punishment for a city which turned away from Yahweh (Dt. 13:12-14). 

On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets-
To enter covenant was literally 'to be sevened' (Gen. 21:28,30). The city was to enter covenant- through those who didn't want to be in the covenant being destroyed. Rahab wanted to be in the covenant (see on Josh. 2), and was brought into it through the city's destruction. 


Jos 6:5 It 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-
This was the victory shout. They were being asked to believe that what was promised had indeed come true, in the spirit of Mk. 11:24. They were asked to believe that they had won- before they had. And therefore by faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, so says Heb. 11:30. 

The wall of the city shall fall down flat-
"Flat" can simply mean 'from beneath', or the idea may have been that the rubble would be 'flat' enough for the Israelites to advance over it into the city, straight before them. The same word is used for how Achan hid the silver under or beneath the garment he stole (Josh. 7:21,22). "Fall down flat" is the phrase used of enemies falling down beneath a victorious Israel (Ps. 18:38; 45:5). The mighty wall represented the Canaanites. The same language of a mighty wall falling is used of the destruction of latter day Babylon (Jer. 50:15; 51:44; Ez. 38:20). Joshua clearly represented the Lord Jesus and His conquest of all opposition to Him in the land of the last days.

There are archaeological claims to have unearthed a wall laying flat on one of the levels of excavation. But surely a wall built from flimsy cement would have not fallen down "flat" but would have disintegrated on impact. Our faith is purely in God's word, rather than hinged solely on questionable archaeological evidence. The evidence for the city having been burnt is more solid, and indeed corroborates the later statement that Jericho was burnt.

And the people shall go up every man straight before him-
Following the Angel is the theme that lies behind God's statement that because He had already given Jericho to Israel, therefore they should arise and take it. So many victories have been prepared for us in prospect- against addictions, engrained weaknesses of character, habits, impossible situations. Israel had to follow the ark, where the Angelic presence of God was (Josh. 6:2 cp. 6:8). The people were to go up into Jericho "straight before them" (Josh. 6:5,20), just as the Cherubim-Angels have "straight feet" (Ez. 1:7,9,12). They were to follow in the Angel's steps.

It is unclear whether "the people" refers to the "armed men"; or to the ordinary unarmed people, as I prefer to think. For it would fit the whole theme of a victory being granted to the weak. If there were unarmed people in the mass of Israelites around the city, this would be another example of the strategy being very weak militarily. For masses of unarmed civilians could easily be attacked and panicked. Perhaps they are the "rearguard" of :13.


Jos 6:6 Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of Yahweh-
Upon the ark was the "mercy seat", imagined as the throne upon which Yahweh was enthroned as king, perhaps with the shekinah glory visible between the cherubim which were over it. The trumpets going before it were therefore proclaiming or heralding Him as king; hence the usage of the phrase "Lord of all the earth" in connection with the ark (Josh. 3:11,13). The idea is consistently that Canaan was being claimed as His Kingdom, with Himself as King.   


Jos 6:7 They said to the people, Go, march around the city, and let the armed men pass on before Yahweh’s ark-
See on :13. We note that the focus of the description is upon the ark. The armed men went before it, followed by the priests and only then the ark. But the description begins with the ark, for this was the central point of the procession. The archaeological excavations reveal Jericho to have only been of 600 meters circumference. The people would have spent the rest of the day looking at the walls, meditating upon them. This was all intended to pique their faith in God, compared to the height of the obstacle. They were being set up to undo the mistake of the previous generation, who had considered the walls of the Canaanite cities an insuperable obstacle.

Jos 6:8 It was so, that when Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before Yahweh advanced and blew the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of Yahweh followed them-
See on :7. This is rather similar to how the ark stood in the Jordan riverbed until the people had passed over, and then followed them. This recalls how the Angel [who was perhaps dwelling over the ark in the shekinah glory] "went behind" [s.w. "followed"] at the exodus (Ex. 14:19). The word is also used in Dt. 23:14, where Israel are warned that if they are unclean, then Yahweh will no longer follow them. They of course were bidden follow Him, but He is also presented as following them. And thus God's people hear His voice behind them, urging them to choose the right path (s.w. Is. 30:21); for He is not only their vanguard, but also their rear guard following them (Is. 52:12; 58:8). This indicates not only the mutuality between God and His people; but the sense that we are both following and being followed by Him, as it were sandwiched by His presence.      


Jos 6:9 The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the ark went after them. The trumpets sounded as they went-
"Armed men" is s.w. Josh. 4:13, and could possibly refer specifically to the men of the two and a half tribes who were to be the vanguard for the Israelite army. See on :8.


Jos 6:10 Joshua commanded the people saying, You shall not shout, nor let your voice be heard, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I tell you ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout-
The command to "shout" was a reflection of the belief Israel were to have in the fact that God had already given them the city- for the Hebrew for "shout" usually refers to a shout of victory. The word is translated "... will I triumph" in Ps. 60:8; 108:9. The same idea of shouting in victory over a city which has been given to God's people recurs in Ps. 47:3,5; Jer. 50:15- "Shout against her round about [cp. compassing the walls of Jericho]... her foundations are [present tense] fallen, her walls [cp. Jericho's] are thrown down". And this speaks of our latter day victory against Babylon- thus making the whole account of earnest relevance to us who live in the last days, and who will see Babylon fall by faith. Notice how literal Babylon fell by the water of the river being dried up, and the walls being opened- just the same sequence of events that occurred at Jericho. Likewise 1 Cor. 3:12-15 likens all the faithful to material which can pass through the fire of judgment- and this surely is a reference to the way that Jericho was burnt with fire, and only the metals along with Rahab and her family came through that fire to salvation. Thus according to the allusion, Rahab and her family represent all the faithful.

 Heb. 11:30 associates the circling of the walls with faith: “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been circled seven days”. 2 Cor. 10:3-4 is perhaps an allusion to the way that Jericho was taken with such a humanly weak battle plan: “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ". The point of the allusion is for us to see ourselves as those nervous Israelites desperately clinging on to their faith in God's victory rather than human strength. And we each have our Jerichos- habits, life-dominating patterns of thinking, that seem so impossible to shift.


The deliverance at the Red Sea had been intended to teach Israel these very lessons. And the account of the fall of Jericho is recorded in similar language, in order to teach the same lesson. Rahab's house had to be identified by a scarlet cord- like the blood of the Passover lamb sprinkled on the two doorposts and lintel of the Israelites' homes in Egypt. The silence demanded of the people in Josh. 6:10 was surely to recall Ex. 14:14, there the people standing before the Red Sea were assured: “The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent". Compare the command to keep silent whilst Yahweh fought, with the common practice of yelling war cries as an ancient army approached their enemy. All human convention, wisdom and strength, was placed in purposeful opposition to what seemed quite counter-instinctive- to be utterly silent whilst God did the fighting.


Jos 6:11 So he caused the ark of Yahweh to go around the city, going about it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp-
There's a distinct theme in the record that actually, God's people didn't do according to His ideal plan, and yet still He gave them the victory. One wonders whether the comment that "So the ark of the Lord compassed the city" (Josh. 6:11) could imply that the entire fighting force of Israel didn't bother doing as commanded on the first circuit of the city- possibly they just sent the ark around it. See on :20.


Jos 6:12 Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of Yahweh-
Joshua was characterized by rising early (Josh. 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10). This is a much repeated characteristic of God's servants: that they 'rose up early in the morning' and did God's work. In each of the following passages, this phrase is clearly not an idiom; rather does it have an evidently literal meaning: Abraham (Gen. 19:27; 21:14; 22:3); Jacob (Gen. 28:18); Job (1:5); Moses (Ex. 8:20; 9:13; 24:4; 34:4); Gideon (Jud. 6:38; 7:1). This is quite an impressive list, numerically. This can be a figure for being zealous (Ps. 127:2; Pr. 27:14; Song 7:12; Is. 5:11; Zeph. 3:7). God Himself rises up early in His zeal to save and bring back His wayward people (Jer. 7:13,25; 11:7; 25:3,4; 26:5; 29:19; 32:33; 35:14,15; 44:4). Yet the above examples all show that men literally rose up early in their service to God; this was an expression of their zeal for God, in response to His zeal for us. I'm not suggesting that zeal for God is reflected by rising early rather than staying up late; but it wouldn't be too much to suggest that if we are men of mission, we won't waste our hours in bed. Get up when you wake up.


Jos 6:13 The seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of Yahweh went on continually and blew the trumpets: and the armed men went before them. The rear guard came after the ark of Yahweh. The trumpets sounded as they went-
This rear guard could have just been ordinary unarmed people, as discussed on :5. The restoration prophets may allude to this in saying that Yahweh would be Israel's rear guard (Is. 52:12), and Yahweh's glory would be their rear guard (Is. 58:8)- manifest in unarmed, ordinary people. The tribe of Dan was the rear guard of the camp when it was usually on the move (Num. 10:25).


Jos 6:14 The second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. They did this six days-
Verse 10 implies that the people maybe didn't know the battle plan- each day they would've walked around the city in silence, and nothing happened. They were kept on the tip toe of faith and obedience throughout those six days, and may well have wondered whether this was not just some bizarre ritual which would make no dent in the walls of Jericho. The command to "Shout!" didn't come- for six days. The whole exercise was surely to develop their faith. Again, this was the most crazy of battle plans, in human terms.


Jos 6:15 It happened on the seventh day that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and marched around the city in the same way seven times. Only on this day they marched around the city seven times-
As noted above, they would have been exhausted by the end of this. The battle plan was God's and was against all human wisdom, which would have wanted an early morning surprise attack, with troops at their most fresh. Rather than an exhausted group of soldiers later in the day, in full view of the enemy, having given the defenders every warning that a major attack was coming.


Jos 6:16 It happened at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people, Shout, for Yahweh has given you the city!-
The command to "shout" was a reflection of the belief Israel were to have in the fact that God had already given them the city- for the Hebrew for "shout" usually refers to a shout of victory. The word is translated "... will I triumph" in Ps. 60:8; 108:9. The same idea of shouting in victory over a city which has been given to God's people recurs in Jer. 50:15- "Shout against her round about [cp. compassing the walls of Jericho]... her foundations are [present tense] fallen, her walls [cp. Jericho's] are thrown down". And this speaks of our latter day victory against Babylon- thus making the whole account of earnest relevance to us who live in the last days, and who will see Babylon fall by faith. Notice how literal Babylon fell by the water of the river being dried up, and the walls being opened- just the same sequence of events that occurred at Jericho.


Jos 6:17 The city shall be devoted, even it and all that is in it, to Yahweh. Only Rahab the prostitute shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent-
"The prostitute" is emphasized. Those within her house, a brothel, sound like they were her clients; although we know they were her family. But the language is used like this to emphasize her low moral situation. Her salvation was a strong lesson to Israel. Those whom they would otherwise despise as the lowest of the low, a Gentile prostitute, were to be welcomed into the covenant. 

Jos 6:18 But as for you, only keep yourselves from the devoted thing, lest when you have devoted it, you take of the devoted thing-
This was precisely what Saul did (1 Sam. 15:3). Like so many, he failed to learn from Biblical history. Whether we have a mean or generous spirit will affect our whole life- an evil [stingy] eye means our whole body is full of darkness. Just let this sink in. If we are materialistic, our whole life will be filled with darkness, whatever our external pretensions may be, and there is a definite link to be made here with the "darkness" of rejection. The riches of Jericho are described with a Hebrew word which means both a curse, and something devoted (to God; Josh. 6:18). This teaches a powerful lesson: such riches of this world as come into our possession will curse us, unless they are devoted to the Father.

Understanding God as creator, in its true, deep and thought-through sense, leads to an understanding of grace. That all we have, are, were, shall ever be, is purely His gift. Likewise, to take for ourselves what is God’s is to play God. Materialism and selfishness are in this sense playing God. This was Achan’s sin- to take what was devoted to God for himself. And this was why he is described as having ‘stolen’. But from whom? From God (Josh. 6:18; 7:11). The fact God owns everything means that there can be no distinction between what is ours and what is God’s. To think like that is to steal from Him. And hence the power and force of Mal. 3:8: “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me”. Have we robbed God in this way, especially in our attitudes and perceptions?

That would make the camp of Israel accursed-
"Accursed" is s.w. "devoted". Jericho and its wealth was to be sacrificially devoted to Yahweh. If Israel took that wealth to themselves, then they too would have to be handed over to Him in destruction.

And trouble it-
Ahab's denunciation of Elijah as "he that troubles Israel" (1 Kings 18:17) effectively accuses Elijah of being like Achan, the troubler of Israel (Josh. 6:18).  As Achan brought about Israel's defeat at the hand of her surrounding enemies, so latter-day Israel will blame their similar defeats and the strange drought which will afflict them, upon Elijah.  Elijah's response to Ahab's accusation is typical of his theme of the need to throw off the worship of Baal and the other local gods, for that of Yahweh:  "I have not troubled Israel, but you... in that you have... followed Baalim" (1 Kings 18:18). The stress upon this may indicate that the latter-day Elijah will seek to turn Israel away from a devotion to Islam - the idol of the surrounding nations.


Jos 6:19 But all the silver and gold, and the vessels of brass and iron, are holy to Yahweh. They shall come into Yahweh’s treasury-
The same phrase "of silver, and vessels of gold, and vessels of brass" is used of the vessels taken from the Gentile world and dedicated to the tabernacle (Ex. 11:2; 12:35; Josh. 6:19; 2 Sam. 8:10; 1 Kings 7:51). The generosity of others in Biblical history, their right perspective on the wealth taken from this world, was to inspire other believers in later history. And this is how the body of Christ should function today, with members inspiring others to spirituality.


Jos 6:20 So the people shouted, and the priests blew the trumpets. It happened that 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 before him; and they took the city-
See on :5,11; Rev. 21:12. For "flat", see on :5. Yet according to Heb. 11:30, “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down …”. Whose faith? What faith? Was Joshua-Jesus' faith counted to the people? Or was their very weak, hope-for-the-best faith all the same accepted as faith by God's grace?

The people were to shout when the trumpets sounded (Josh. 6:10). But in reality, like a Sunday School play gone wrong, the people shouted, the trumpets sounded, and then the people again shouted (Josh. 6:20). See on :11.


Jos 6:21 They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, both young and old, and ox, sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword-
"Destroyed" is the word for "devoted". But actually not all was devoted; Achan stole some of it. So this is an example of where the Bible records things as they appeared to men, without as it were adding footnotes to clarify. Just as the language of demons is used in the New Testament, although they do not in fact exist.

The animals aren't recorded as being destroyed in later conquests. It's as if God recognized that the totality of devotion to Him which He so desired was just not going to be forthcoming from His people. And so He asked for less, and allowed them keep the cattle, which clearly they were tempted to covet. Yet we need to learn from this, and be inspired to at least try to rise up to total devotion.


Jos 6:22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, Go into the prostitute’s house, and bring out from there the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her-
Hebrew tenses are vague, unlike tenses in Greek or English. The idea is that Joshua "had said" this to the two men. Artists have done us a great disservice by presenting the walls of Jericho as having fallen, apart from the section where Rahab's house was. She had already been brought out- perhaps by using the scarlet rope to descend the walls, bringing her into full fellowship with the experience of the spies. But the emphasis is that the spies 'brought her out', and entered her house.  


Jos 6:23 The young men who were spies went in, and brought out Rahab with her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. They also brought out all her relatives, and they set them outside the camp of Israel-
The family had been warned that they must remain within the house, as if they were keeping Passover (Josh. 2:19 = Ex. 12:22). They were "brought out" as Israel were then brought out from Egypt, the "house" of bondage (s.w. Ex. 20:2). The king of Jericho had used the same phrase in ordering that the spies be brought out from her house (Josh. 2:3). But it was all turned the other way around, which is typical of God's style of working. 


Jos 6:24 They burnt the city with fire, and all that was in it-
Insofar as Israel followed their Angel, they had success. We repeatedly read that the cities they conquered were 'sent up in flames' (Jud. 1:8; Josh. 6:24; 8:8; 11:11), surely because they were following the Angel who was himself as a devouring pillar of fire (Dt. 9:3). Yet quite naturally we balk at the height of our calling, to follow the Angel.

Only they put the silver, the gold and the vessels of brass and of iron into the treasury of Yahweh’s house-
1 Cor. 3:12-15 likens all the faithful to material which can pass through the fire of judgment- and this surely is a reference to the way that Jericho was burnt with fire, and only the metals along with Rahab and her family came through that fire to salvation. Thus according to the allusion, Rahab and her family represent all the faithful. And she was a whore, and her family had to humble themselves to reconcile with her and come within her brothel in order to be saved.


Jos 6:25 But Rahab the prostitute, her father’s household, and all that she had-
Family, however estranged from them she must have been, were "all that she had", and in a secular sense that is true for even the wealthiest people.

Joshua saved alive. She lived in the midst of Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers, whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho-
I would consider the book of Joshua to have largely been written by Joshua, under Divine inspiration, although edited [again under Divine inspiration] for the exiles. And the book of Judges likewise. For the exiles too were set to reestablish God's Kingdom in the land and to inherit it again as the Israelites first did. The phrase "to this day" occurs several times in Joshua / Judges, and appears to have different points of historical reference (Josh. 4:9; 5:9; 6:25; 7:26; 8:28,29; 9:27; 10:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10; 22:3; 23:8,9; Jud. 1:26; 6:24; 10:4; 15:19; 18:12). I would explain this by saying that the book was edited a number of times and the remains of those edits remain in the text. For God's word is living and made relevant by Him to every generation. Here, it seems that the record is being written whilst Rahab was still alive, and so "to this day" was only a relatively short time after the events.

Again we see the spies described as messengers; and Heb. 11:31; James 2:25 say that she believed them. They preached the gospel of the Kingdom and she had faith in it.


Jos 6:26 Joshua commanded them with an oath at that time, saying, Cursed before Yahweh is the man who rises up and builds this city Jericho. With the loss of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up its gates-
The idea was to build it in the sense of fortifying it; for the city was inhabited for quite some time before this curse came true. Was this unnecessarily extreme? However it was fulfilled at the time of Ahab in 1 Kings 16:34: "In his days Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho: he laid its foundation 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 Yahweh, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun". To even attempt to rebuilt Jericho meant a studied disregard of God's word, considering Biblical records of Joshua's words to be merely the words of men. Hiel was from Bethel, where the golden calf was. Jericho had been inhabited after Joshua's time (Jud. 3:13; 2 Sam. 10:5). So this was a conscious rebuilding of the walls with gates in defiance of Yahweh's word. And his sons died during the building work, perhaps 'at some time between the beginning, in laying the foundations, and the ending of the project, in hanging the gates'. After Abiram died laying the foundations, we would rather imagine that Hiel might have learned the lesson. But he didn't, such was his desire to defy God's word. And so his youngest son died when the project was almost completed and the gates were being hung. The desire to rebuild the settlement as a walled, gated city could have been because of its strategic position near the crossing of the Jordan river. Jericho was on the border of Ephraim but belonged to Benjamin (Josh. 16:7; 18:21), so it seems Ahab had taken it, and wanted to have the city and fortify it as a boundary against the two tribe kingdom.  


Jos 6:27 So Yahweh was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land-
The eretz promised to Abraham is the land / earth which the Bible focuses upon. “The LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country” (Josh. 6:27), the  eretz. Clearly the whole planet didn’t know Joshua had invaded Canaan. Many times in Joshua and Judges we read of the people of the eretz: “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land [eretz] shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth [eretz]” (Josh. 7:9). Here the Israelites feared being cut off from their place in the land. They perceived the world / earth to them as the land where their enemies lived. In Josh. 12:1,7 we meet “the kings of the earth”, i.e. of the land, and this must surely be the basis of how we are to understand the references to “the kings of the earth” in Revelation. Dt. 13:7 defines “the peoples which are round about you” [Israel] as being “from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth” (RV). Those peoples which bordered with the Israelites were “the earth” / eretz.