"To Overcome, Trust and Obey" Joshua 6
Updated: Mar 26
A Promise: Jericho I Have Given unto You
With Jericho securely shut up, unless the Lord made a way, the city would never have been taken. Its gates were shut; its inhabitants were all gathered inside, prepared for a long siege. The Lord had other plans. The Angel of the Lord begins with a promise. Remember this is the Captain of the Lord’s armies who met Joshua near Jericho (5:13-15). He is the preincarnate Son of God, the Mediator of the covenant, the “Rock that followed the people through the wilderness, and that rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4). “See,” look at Jericho, an impregnable fortress. I have given it into your hand – its king and mighty men. All that follows is the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to give Jericho to his people. Joshua was not to forget this, for the “just live by faith.” “All God’s promises are ‘yes and a-men” in Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20). Our victory over sin, over the devil who stalks, and over the world that mocks is the fruit of God’s promise. Each day, we must arm ourselves with God’s promises. In every duty and calling, we move forward confidently when supported by God’s promises. We must know his promises, believe them, pray them, and then give him sincere praise when he fulfills them. And he will. He is ever true to himself.
The Lord’s Plan: A Week of Quiet Walking around Jericho, Trumpets, Then a Shout
The Lord’s plan was a strange one. All the men of war should encircle Jericho. Walk around the city one time each day. The Ark of the Covenant will go with you – so near to his people – no half-mile separation this time but right in their midst. Seven priests shall carry rams’ horns to blow before the Ark, announcing that the Lord of all the earth is coming to judge the inhabitants of the land and give it to his people. No one should speak. These trumpets were simpler than the silver trumpets used in other aspects of worship. The Lord wants nothing ornate, other than the Ark that was the visible symbol of his presence with his people. Do this for six days. On the seventh day, some have said the Sabbath, march around the seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets. After the seventh time, a long blast on the horn is the signal to shout. The walls of the city will fall down flat, and the people may ascend up into the city.
Four Reasons for This Plan
Why did the Lord direct Joshua to besiege Jericho in this way? First, the Lord was testing his people’s obedience and training them that victory lies in the way of explicit obedience to his commands. We are not to form our own plans, build our congregations, or pursue relationships by consulting our own feelings but by following the Lord’s plan revealed in his word. Second, we cannot obey the Lord unless we trust him. Faith is the foundation of obedience – trust that the Lord loves us, has taken us to be his children, and knows better than we what is required to obtain the victor’s crown. Third, in fighting, we must use his weapons. God’s plan for Jericho’s destruction likely exposed his people to the ridicule of the men of Jericho. They looked down from the walls, first with horror – is this some new weapon? – then quizzically – what are they doing? They are going to beat us by blowing trumpets? This is child’s play. By the week’s end, there must have been laughter. And anyone might have thrown stones down upon them or shot them with arrows. The Lord’s weapons bring the world’s ridicule (1 Cor. 1:18) – the Word of God? Faith? Prayer? But this is the fourth lesson of the Lord’s plan. The earth is the Lord’s. The battle is his. He is sovereign over us and over his enemies. Now, our Lord Jesus has “all authority and power in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18). Do we believe that he is sovereign and exercises absolutely dominion over men and nations?
The Walls Fell Down (vv. 6-21)
6 Then 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 the LORD." 7 And he said to the people, "Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD." 8 So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. 9 The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. 10 Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, 'Shout!' Then you shall shout." 11 So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp. 12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 Then 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 rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days. 15 But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! 17 "Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 "And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 "But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD." 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword.
The Lord’s Plan Followed (vv. 6-16)
After returning to camp, Joshua called together the priests and told them to take up the Ark and seven trumpets in preparation to proceed (v. 6). Through the officers, Joshua relayed the Lord’s plan to the people (v. 7). Early the next day, they began following his plan (vv. 8,12). How many of the men of war were in this processional we are not told, but it is unlikely that all walked. The priests walking before the ark blew the rams’ horns (v. 9). They made no noise, and did not talk (v. 10). The reason for the silence – perhaps to show reverence to the Lord who walked with them and to make it clear this was no rabble but a people under the Lord’s government. The Ark – the Lord in their midst – was really leading the charge – “Let all the earth keep silent before him” (v. 11). They circled Jericho, maintained silence, and the priests blew trumpets for six days (vv. 13-14). They did the same on the seventh day, which if the Sabbath, was no breaking of the Sabbath, for they worshipped the Lord and were doing his commanded works of judgment on that day. After they finished their march, Joshua said, “Shout: for the Lord has given you the city.” They obeyed him. They did not try to be wiser than the Lord. They did not listen to the jeering of the men of Jericho. They trusted and obeyed. The Lord gave them the city.
Jericho Cursed and Fallen Down (vv. 17-21)
Joshua may have announced this already, for it seems impossible that all the people could have heard him or that the officers had sufficient time between the shouting and the walls falling down to spread the word. However this may be, Joshua announces the cherem upon Jericho – God’s ban. The whole city is accursed, devoted to destruction, to be destroyed, from oldest to youngest, male and female – with the exception of Rahab and her family. It is a most dreadful decree, and many hate the Old Testament for this one reason alone. How could God have commanded this? Remember that he gave the Canaanites 400 years to repent of their gross idolatry and immorality (Gen. 15:13-16). There is no question of his longsuffering, and no question of his righteousness in this decree – except for those who are predisposed to hate him, question his authority over us, redefine sin so that there is no sin, and restrict him so that he is no longer judge of men and nations. The ban means that no one is to take spoil from the city (v. 18). The silver and gold, brass and iron, are devoted to the Lord for the use of his worship (v. 19). When the people then shouted, the walls fall back, likely downward sloping like ramps, as archeological findings suggested, so that the people could walk straight into the city (v. 20). The armies of the living God destroyed every living thing in Jericho (v. 21). And thus, God’s enemies finally perish, even the children suffering his Ban, not for their fathers’ sins, but for their own.
The Fruits of Victory (vv. 22-27)
22 But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, "Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." 23 And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. 24 But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. 26 Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, "Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates." 27 So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.
Rahab Saved (vv. 22-24,25)
However chaotic life can become, we must remember our God and our promises we have made in his name. Joshua did not forget Rahab. He sent the two spies to bring her and her family out. They found her alive, and brought her and all she had out of the city. They did not know it, but they brought out the line of Jesus Christ, for Rahab became not only incorporated into the life of Israel but into the blood line of the Messiah (Matt. 1:5). Looking back, we can see that the Lord “did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), and that the promise to Abraham was to his seed Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16), and to all who have the faith of Abraham (Gal. 3:7,9,14). It was “by faith” that Rahab acted as she did, being a Canaanite daughter of Abraham (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25). All of this would be better understood later, but in keeping their promise to Rahab, Joshua and that generation were saving the world. Rahab was incorporated into Israel (v. 25). There is no indication that she was looked down upon for being a foreigner. She remained alive when our book of Joshua was written, which supports Joshua’s authorship. God’s grace is overwhelming. He saves us through the weak and lowly (Matt. 11:29; 1 Cor. 1:27).
A Curse upon Rebuilders of Jericho (v. 26)
The ban upon Jericho was not temporary. Joshua cursed all subsequent rebuilders of the city. The foundation would be laid with the rebuilder’s firstborn, and the gates set upon the death of his youngest. This prophecy was fulfilled centuries later, in the days of Ahab. Hiel the Bethelite rebuilt Jericho with the blood of his firstborn, Abiram, and set the gates with the blood of his youngest, Segub (1 Kings 16:34). It is clear that the Lord wanted Jericho to remain a perpetual witness to his great war against his enemies. It is equally clear that the passage of time does not blunt the sharp edge of the sword of the Spirit. His word is eternal, fixed in the heavens (Ps. 119:89). Men may forget God’s word, laugh at it, or ignore it, but he never forgets his word. He rules the world by his promises to the faithful, as witness Rahab, and by his curse upon his enemies, as witness Hiel.
Joshua Famous and Feared (v. 27)
The Lord was with Joshua. O, Christian, make this the chief aim of your life – for the Lord to be with you. And how can we know that he is with us? When we live by his promises, believe upon the name of Jesus Christ, and walk in trusting obedience to his word. Joshua did this, and his fame was spread throughout the land. Jericho was the first and foremost city of the area. The noise of its destruction quickly spread. The hammer of God had fallen in the person of Joshua. The gods of the Canaanites could not stand before him. The fame was no threat to Joshua, for he feared the Lord. When we stand strong in the Lord, we should expect to overcome the world, sin, and the devil. And by overcoming the world, the world takes notice that there is something different about us – even if it is only a few neighbors, extended family, and coworkers. Men cannot help noticing that we have been with the Lord, and that he is with us (Acts 4:13). Spend much time with him. His fellowship is the secret of Christian strength (John 15:1-8).
The Lord’s Battle Plan Today (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 7:31-34; 10:31)
The Great Commission and Our Great Calling
If only we had a clear battle plan – we do. Matthew 28:18-20 sets forth a matching paradigm to Joshua 5:13-6:6. Our Savior has all rule and authority. He is ascended to the Father’s right hand. Acts 2:30-36 gives us the added glory of the outpoured Spirit. In our Lord’s exalted strength, we are to make disciples of all nations. Yes, this commission was given first to the apostles, but it applies to all believers, who are to “go everywhere gospelling” (Acts 8:4) – speaking the gospel. This is our Lord’s battle plan – I have all rule and authority. Tell men my word, my gospel, and bring them into my church. Baptize them in the name of the triune God. And I am with you to the end of the age. And if we need a more specific application, consider 1 Cor. 7:31-34. Wherever we are called, in whatever state we live, work, and raise our families, there serve God. We do not need a change of circumstances but a change of heart. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). We have a battle plan to overcome the world – faith in the word of God, the resurrection life and exalted dominion of Jesus Christ, and the indwelling Christ by his Spirit. This is our Savior’s battle plan, and it is really the same he gave to Joshua. I am with you, so trust me. Here is my word, so obey me. I have given you a great promise, therefore expect me to work for you as you follow me. What is often