God’s Power to Save
1Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”
Now we open the most famous chapter of Joshua. Every child who has gone to Sunday School knows the story of Jericho’s destruction and capture by God and His people. And there’s a reason for that. It’s a very dramatic moment. The time for conquest has arrived and God’s people stand ready to obey His direction. But who would have predicted such a strange way to conduct warfare? You march silently around the city once a day for six days, then on the seventh day you shout and blow trumpets. It’s just bizarre.
The account of the fall and capture of Jericho illustrates at the start of the conquest a repeated theme of the book: The Lord is the sole cause of the victories of Israel. His promises, strategy, and power alone deliver Jericho into the hand of his covenant people. His nation is his agent when, in faith given through his means of grace, it adheres to his Word and by the power of that Word accomplishes his purpose. That purpose involves both Law and Gospel: unbelievers receive judgment, but his faithful people receive the inheritance he has promised in his Word.
Harstad, A. L. (2004). Joshua (p. 270). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.
First, we learn how the citizens of Jericho are taking the arrival of God’s people. Jericho is closed for business. Nothing is moving; the gates are locked, and no one goes in or out of the city. Clearly, they are just standing on the wall looking at this mass of people below. And because this is the Lord’s work, their hearts are “melting within them” as they wait to see what these people will do. God’s words to Joshua inform him that the city is already theirs - the battle has already been won. “See, I have given Jericho into your hand . . . “
A unique detail is how God describes the falling of the walls. “. . . and the wall of the city will fall down flat . . .” That means that the walls would fall not into the city, or out onto the area outside the city, but straight down. (Remember how the World Trade Center went straight down? That’s how Jericho came down.) And so God plants a vision in Joshua’s mind as to how the city would fall.
The number “seven” also plays something of a part in this divine drama: seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days of marching, seven times around the city on the seventh day. In God’s economy, the number seven is the number of completeness and holiness. We find the number seven throughout God’s story of our redemption.
Centuries later, one of the psalmists will be inspired to recount this event as they cry out to God for protection from their enemies. God was, is, and ever shall be our Savior.
1O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
2you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free;
3for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.
4You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob!
5Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us.
6For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me.
7But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us.
8In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.