Christian Churches of God
Walls of Jericho Fall
(Edition 2.0 20060312-20061127)
So the people shouted with a great shout when the priests blew the trumpets and it came to pass that the walls of Jericho fell down. This paper has been adapted from Chapters 52, 53 and 54 of The Bible Story Volume II by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press. Some Scriptures were taken from the Holy Bible New International Version, Copyright 1973,1978,1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Walls of Jericho Fall
We continue here from the paper Joshua Succeeds Moses (No. CB51).
It had been just forty years earlier that Israel had fled from Egypt (Num. 14:26-35; Deut. 1:3; Josh. 5:6). The Exodus had started after the first observance of Passover. Now it was almost time to prepare for another Passover. But before it should be observed, God told Joshua that most of the males of Israel should undergo the physical rite of circumcision that had been required as a sign and seal of the covenant between the Creator and Israel.
At that time the Lord told Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites. So Joshua did that. This was necessary because all the men of military age who came out of Egypt and died in the desert had been circumcised, but the males born in the desert during the journey had not (Josh. 5:2-8).
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (v. 9). The flint, which Joshua used, symbolised God, who is the Flint or Rock that circumcises the hearts of Israel. Israel was to circumcise its male children on the eighth day forevermore.
On the evening of the 14th day of the month, while camped at Gilgal, the Israelites celebrated the Passover, which included the Days of Unleavened Bread. They ate some of the produce of the land: bread without yeast in it (unleavened bread) and roasted grain. The unleavened bread was to be eaten for the seven days of the Feast (Ex. 12:15; Lev. 23:6). As a result, the manna, which had been the main food for forty years, ceased to appear on the following day or at any time after that (Josh. 5:2-12). Manna was God’s gift for the forty years of the desert journey. From now on Israel would have food from the Promised Land.
Meanwhile, there was no sign of Canaanite soldiers except those who could be seen in the distance on the walls of Jericho. Nevertheless, enemy spies kept a close watch on Israel. Their reports on the parting of the river spread quickly to every ruler in that part of the world. These leaders were greatly concerned by this amazing event. They had felt temporarily secure from Israel because they had considered the Jordan practically impossible to cross during its swollen condition.
The king of Jericho was especially worried. Even though his fighting force was made up of many fierce men skilled in battle, the Israelites were camped very close to his city (Josh. 5:1).
To make certain that no more Israelite spies could get into Jericho, he gave orders that the gates of the city should close and remain closed twenty-four hours a day. No one was to be allowed in or out (Josh. 6:1).
A few days after Israel had arrived in Gilgal, Joshua went alone toward Jericho despite the protests of some of his officers. He wished to see for himself what the place was like at closer range. He suddenly found himself face to face with a sturdy man holding a gleaming sword and looking directly at him. Joshua strode boldly up to him.
“Are you a friend of Israel or an enemy?” Joshua asked him directly (Josh. 5:13).
“I am not an enemy,” the man replied in a firm voice. “I am here as the commander of the army of God!” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What would you ask of me, my Lord? (v. 14).
This commander or captain of the army of God was the being who later became the man Jesus Christ. This is the same being that appeared to Moses in the burning bush (see Ex. 3:1-5).
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Joshua lost no time in obeying. Then he carefully listened to the instructions from God (Josh. 5:15).
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the Ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Josh. 6:2-5, NIV).
Inspired and encouraged in what he should do, Joshua returned to camp and told the officers and the priests of his unusual experience and of God’s plan to take Jericho (vv. 6-7).
When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests went forward blowing their trumpets, and the Ark of the Covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests and the rear guard followed the Ark. At this time the trumpets were sounding but Joshua had commanded the people not to give a war cry, or say a word until the day they were told to shout. So the Ark of the Lord was carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there (Josh. 6:8-11, NIV).
The symbolism here is that the mysteries of God were kept quiet until the Last Days when God revealed the time to shout out the First Angel’s message. The seven priests bearing the trumpets of rams’ horns represent the seven angels who are given the seven trumpets to blow. They are also the seven angels of the seven churches of the world’s system.
Next day, the Israelites appeared for the second time and marched around Jericho once in the same manner and at the same distance. Then they returned to the camp. They did this for six days (vv. 12-14). Just as Israel circled the city of Jericho and gave a physical warning to the city, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God must go out to the entire world before the end can come. We are in that process now and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is being published in many different languages.
On the seventh day, they got up early and marched around the city in the same manner but this time they circled it seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you this city! (vv. 15-16, NIV).
Joshua went on to say, “The city and all that is in it shall be accursed of the Lord. Only Rahab and all who are with her in her house shall be saved because she hid the two spies we sent. But keep away from the accursed things so that you will not bring about your own destruction and bring a curse on the camp of Israel by taking any of them. All the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury” (vv. 17-19). Everything was to be destroyed except these things that could be used in the service of the Temple.
The noise that resulted when the trumpets sounded and the people shouted caused the walls to collapse. So the army charged in and took the city of Jericho (v. 20).
The symbolism of what happened at Jericho relates to the seven seals, the seven trumpets, and the seven vials of the wrath of God of revelation of the Last Days. The shout of the people is symbolic of the great shout of the Archangel, which will shatter the walls of the cities of this world and bring down the rule of Satan. See the papers The Seven Seals of Revelation (No. CB95) and The Seven Trumpets of Revelation (No. CB96).
Accursed/ dedicated - SHD 2764: 1) a thing devoted, thing dedicated, ban, devotion.
Note: Jericho means Moon City and was probably the centre for worship of the moon god. So God was not only destroying Canaanites and their cities but also false religion. Some might think that God is cruel, but He was actually showing them mercy. In the future they will be resurrected and given an opportunity to learn God’s way to peace and happiness (Mat. 12:41, 42; Rev. 20:11-12; Isa. 65:19-25).
Jericho is also referred to as the city of palm trees (Deut. 34:3; Jud. 1:16; 3:13). We know that palm trees can represent the spiritual Host so it is interesting that Joshua, son of Nun (salvation is born through endurance), brought Israel (he will rule with/as El) across the Jordan River (the river of judgment) to Gilgal (the rolling away) as the place to be circumcised. Finally, Christ led Israel to Jericho to bring down the walls that surrounded the City of Palms.
Only one family spared
Rahab and her relatives were inside at the time of Jericho’s fall, and though the house was built on the wall, that particular portion of the wall was miraculously spared. Joshua sent the two scouts who had spied out the land to bring Rahab and those related to her, and their possessions, to a safe place outside Israel’s camp (Josh. 6:20-23). Rahab and her family were in a place of safety because the hand of God was on them. In the same way our place of safety is wherever God puts His hand on us.
Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and articles or bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s House (v. 24).
“Pass on the word to all the people,” Joshua informed them, “that no man should ever rebuild Jericho. Anyone who reconstructs the city will fall under a curse from the Creator, and he shall become childless. His oldest child shall die when he lays the foundation and his youngest shall die when he sets up the city gates. Let the ashes and stones of Jericho be a monument to the destruction that will come to all idol-worshippers” (vv. 25-27). This prophecy was fulfilled about 500 years later when a very foolish Israelite rebuilt Jericho (1Kgs. 16:34).
News of the fall of Jericho spread swiftly over the land, and Joshua became famous in that part of the world because of his leading Israel to take the city. Consequently, fear of Israel mounted in the surrounding nations (v. 27).
Some of the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things. Achan (SHD 5912, the one who troubles), son of Carmi (SHD 3756, my vineyard) the son of Zabdi (SHD 2067, endowment), the son of Zerah (SHD 2262, rising) from the tribe of Judah (SHD 5063, praising), took some of them and the Lord’s anger burned against Israel (Josh. 7:1).
The next city Joshua intended to conquer was called Ai. Again scouts were used to obtain information. When they returned from Ai, they said, “Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand to take it, for only a few men live there.” So about three thousand men went there; but the men of Ai killed thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes (vv. 2-5, NIV).
“Where is the help and defense God promised us?” was the question that would have crossed the minds of most of the Israelite soldiers. It was being made shamefully obvious to the Israelites that God’s protection, since the crossing of the Jordan, hinged upon their obedience.
Faith in their Creator swiftly fled, and so did the Israelites. Instead of fighting back, they turned and raced away. It was a dejected and disgraced army that returned to camp. When the people heard what had happened, their confidence in God tumbled to a new low. They couldn’t understand why God would promise them swift victory over all their enemies, and then allow about three thousand of their soldiers to be disorganised, chased and crippled by the idol-worshipping Amorites.
In those days it was the custom to show regret, self-reproach or humiliation by tearing one’s clothes and tossing dust upon one’s head. That was what Joshua did when he heard what had happened. He was so upset and discouraged that he called the Elders together before the Tabernacle to join him until sundown in prostration and an attitude of repentance (v. 6).
“Why have you brought us over Jordan to let us fall into the hands of the Amorites?” Joshua inquired of God as he lay with his face to the ground inside the Tabernacle. “It would have been better for us to stay on the east side of the river than try to attack our enemies here and end up fleeing in terror from them. When all the Canaanites and other nations hear of this, they shall decide we are really weak, and shall come with their combined forces to surround us. We shall be destroyed, and the great name of our God shall be disgraced!” (vv. 7-9).
“These things haven’t happened because of any unfaithfulness on my part,” the Lord replied. “My orders were that no booty (spoils of war) should be taken from Jericho for personal gain. I warned Israel that anyone who did so would become as accursed as Jericho’s people, and that a curse would fall on all Israel as a result. Someone has gone against my will in this matter, and a curse has fallen on this nation. That is why the attempt to conquer Ai was a failure. My help and strength were not with the soldiers, nor will my help be with Israel again in any attempt to overcome your enemies until you remove and destroy the guilty one” (vv. 10-12).
Joshua was surprised and shocked when he heard this. It hadn’t occurred to him that the defeat of his soldiers could be due to someone obtaining booty from Jericho and hiding it.
“Get up and tell the people what has happened,” the Lord continued. “Tell them that they cannot successfully face their enemies until the guilty one is removed, and that they should wash themselves and be ready to appear before you tomorrow so that the guilty one may be found” (vv.13-15).
Joshua obeyed, and next morning the heads of the tribes gathered before the Tabernacle and drew lots to learn what tribe had the guilty person. The tribe of Judah drew the telling lot. Then it was up to the heads of the families of Judah to draw lots. The head of the family of the Zarhites drew the unwanted lot, and next it was the turn of the household heads of the Zarhites to draw lots. According to the manner in which God caused the lots to be drawn, the household turned out to be that of Zabdi.
The men of the household of Zabdi solemnly gathered together. The vast crowd of silent onlookers knew that one of these men was responsible for the death of thirty-six men, the injury of many others and the swift and humiliating retreat of the Israelites from Ai (vv. 16-18).
The lot indicating guilt was drawn by a man by the name of Achan, referred to in other Scriptures as Achar (1Chr. 2:7). Achan was brought before Joshua. “Don’t try to hide your evil deed,” Joshua advised him. “Honour your God by confessing what you have done” (Josh. 7:19).
Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against, the Lord, the God of Israel. When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (vv. 20-21, NIV).
Joshua immediately sent messengers to Achan’s tent and there it all was hidden in his tent. They brought the things to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord (vv. 22-23).
Joshua was aware of the unpleasant event that had to follow. According to God’s orders, Achan and his family, his livestock and his possessions – including the things he had stolen – were taken to a spot well outside the camp of Israel.
There Joshua again confronted Achan to ask him why he had been so thoughtless and disobedient as to bring so much trouble on his people. Joshua said, “The Lord will bring trouble on you today”.
Then all Israel stoned him, and afterwards they stoned the rest of his family and burned them. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger (Josh. 7:24-26).
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army and go up and attack the city of Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king, except you may carry off their plunder (goods) and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush (or surprise attack) behind the city” (Josh. 8:1-2, NIV).
Joshua immediately chose thirty thousand of his best fighting soldiers and sent them out at night. He said, “You are to set an ambush behind the city. Do not go far from the city. All those with me will advance and move forward toward the city and when the men come out against us, we will flee from them. They will run after us until we have led them away from the city. Then you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The Lord your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city set it on fire” (vv. 3-8).
Joshua sent them off and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai – on the west side of Ai. But Joshua stayed that night among the people at Gilgal. Early next morning he set out with the Elders of Israel and officers and the remainder of the soldiers. They marched up and approached the city and set up camp on the north side of Ai with the valley between them and the city. That night Joshua went into the valley (vv. 9-13).
When the king of Ai saw the Israelites approaching on the plain, he became very excited. Here, he thought, was a golden opportunity to twice defeat and humiliate the dreaded enemy that had invaded Canaan. Any city or nation that could put Israel on the run twice would be regarded as gloriously heroic and powerful. So he and his men hurried out to meet Israel in battle. But he did not know about the ambush! (v. 14).
Joshua and his men allowed themselves to be driven back and they fled towards the desert. All the men of Ai chased after them. So they were tricked into moving away from the city and so left it undefended. Joshua’s plan had worked! (vv. 15-17).
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Hold out the javelin that is in your hand towards Ai, for into your hand I will deliver the city.” As soon as Joshua did this the men of the ambush rushed forward. They entered and captured the city and set it on fire (vv. 18-19).
The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city but they could not escape because the Israelites that had been fleeing towards the desert had turned back against their pursuers (v. 20).
When Joshua saw that the ambush had taken the city they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so they were caught in the middle and the Israelites cut them down, leaving no survivors. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua (vv. 21-23).
Leaving thousands of dead bodies littering the valley, the Israelites converged on Ai and destroyed the rest of the pagans who remained there. Not until then did Joshua draw back the hand that held out his javelin (vv. 24-26). This is similar to the situation where Moses’ hands were held upright by Aaron and Hur in order for Joshua and his army to prevail in the battle against the Amalekite army (see Ex. 17:10-13).
Things of value were removed from the city, and then it was burned. As for the king of Ai, he was hanged on a tree as a punishment for his terrible idolatry. At sunset his body was cut down, tossed on the ground before one of the gates of Ai and covered with a large heap of stones (Josh. 8:27-29).
News of the king's disgraceful end would certainly reach other rulers of nearby cities, and thus add to the fear and terror growing in that region of paganism. What was more likely to concern the other nations, however, was that twelve thousand Canaanite men and women perished that day (see v. 25).
After the victors had returned to Gilgal and had rested a few days, Joshua declared that a special ceremony would be held in an area several miles north of Ai. All Israel made the journey over rough country, the Ark being carried along as usual. The only ones who didn't go along were a few soldiers to watch over the camp and take care of the animals.
The people congregated on the slopes of two neighbouring high points, Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, as Moses had commanded them (Deut. 11:29-30). They watched and listened as the sacred ceremonies took place. An altar of uncut stones was erected on Mt. Ebal, as God had commanded (Ex. 20:25). Burnt offerings and peace offerings were made there. Joshua read to the people the many blessings that would come to them through obedience, and the cursings that would come to them through disobedience. These things were written on the stones of the altar.
Blessings and curses come from and on the same people depending on their obedience.
In the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied, on stones, the Laws from God given through Moses. Afterwards he read all the words of the Law to the people in this solemn assembly to remind them of how God wanted them to live, and of the tremendous importance of being obedient (Josh. 8:30-35).
After the ceremonies the people camped and then started the return trip to Gilgal. Israel made this journey into enemy territory and back without encountering so much as one enemy soldier. However, the movements of the people weren't unnoticed, and the rulers of the land became more distressed when they heard of this greater penetration into Canaan.
For centuries the small nations of the region of Canaan had warred among themselves and slain one another. Now that a foreign enemy had entered the land, the rulers put aside their differences and decided to come together to make war against Joshua and Israel. Israel had no knowledge of these particular plans, though Joshua and his officers were aware that such a thing could happen (Josh. 9:1-2).
When the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they decided to send a delegation to Gilgal in disguise. They loaded their donkeys with worn out sacks and old wineskins all cracked and mended. The men put on old worn out sandals and old clothes. Their bread and food supplies were dry and mouldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the men of Israel, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us” (vv. 3-6).
The men of Israel were suspicious at first and said that these people might very well live near them. But the strangers said, "We have heard how your people have come up from the south to conquer the nations in this part of the world. We have come a long way to meet you and to ask you to promise our nation that you will not carry on war with us if ever you reach our borders" (vv.7-11).
Joshua said, "We need proof that you are from this distant nation you have mentioned. Otherwise, it would be foolish to make a promise to you that we would refrain from attacking your nation."
"We assure you, sir," the spokesman replied, "that we are not from any enemy nation. We will be your servants. We have been sent here by the leaders and people of our country to tell you that they have heard of the fame of your great God. They are aware of how He dealt with the ruler of Egypt, and how He helped you become victorious over the Amorites and the kings of Heshbon and Bashan. When our people realised how your God helped you in these battles, they knew that it would be foolish to try to stand against you, so they sent us to ask you to promise not to attack a country so respectful of your power and your God."
Logical sounding lies
“This bread of ours was warm when we left home but now it is dry and mouldy. These wineskins were new but are now cracked and our clothes and sandals are worn out from travelling such a long distance”.
So the men of Israel examined their provisions and this seemed fair evidence that these men had come a great distance from a foreign land; but they did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath (Josh. 9:12-15). God's warning against making peace with Canaanites was temporarily neglected, and Israel's leaders paid more attention to these strangers than to God.
However, three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbours. Now it was quite evident that their "country" was an area well within the bounds of Canaan, and God had instructed Israel to destroy all nations, cities and people within those bounds. Obviously these men had tricked Israel into a sacred promise to spare their people, which was against God's will.
So the Israelites set out after them and on the third day they came to their cities. They did not attack them because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel. All such oaths were binding on Israel. The whole Israelite assembly was angry with its leaders but the leaders told them what they planned to do (vv. 16-21).
Joshua said to the Gibeonites, "Why did you go to all the trouble of trying to fool us into believing that your native land was quite distant instead of within our land only a few miles from our camp? You are now under a curse and will never cease to serve as woodcutters and water carriers for the House of God (v. 22). Noah had previously made a prediction that Canaan would be cursed and some day become slaves of Shem (Gen. 9:25-36). Worship at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) required a lot of wood and water for sacrifices and washing so there was a need for menial labour to do these duties.
"We heard about how you wiped out your enemies," a Gibeonite officer explained. "We didn't want to be counted among them. The city of Gibeon here, and three other Hivite cities to the south – Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjathjearim – formed a secret alliance to seek a promise from Israel's leaders that you would not attack us. We heard that you are a fair and honest people, and would keep any vow you might make.
"We became aware that your God commanded you to destroy all the people of this region, and we were so alarmed that we tried to carry out the only plan we thought might save us. But we aren't begging for freedom now. You have us in your power to deal with as you wish" (Josh. 9:24-25).
The Hivites should have considered themselves quite fortunate to remain alive under the circumstances, but it is generally human nature to hope for more than is received, and there was a tone of bitterness in the voice of the Gibeonite leader.
Having ended these matters with the Hivites for the time being, Joshua and his many soldiers headed back toward Gilgal. They little guessed that they would very soon be racing back toward Gibeon. We shall see why when we continue with this story in paper CB53.
Other sources of reference:
NIV Study Bible