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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 6

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-21



Joshua 6:1

This verse (see above) is parenthetical. It explains why the captain of the Lord's host appeared unto Joshua. The inhabitants of Jericho, though in a state of the utmost alarm, were nevertheless fully on their guard against the children of Israel. The commencement of hostilities imposed a great responsibility on Joshua. Success at the outset was, humanly speaking, indispensable. We may see what defeat involved for him by his distress in consequence of the check at Ai. The alternative was victory or annihilation, for the Israelites had no homes or fortresses to which they could retire. Joshua was therefore encouraged by a visible proof that he was under the protection of the Most High, to be yet farther assured by the marvels that were to follow. The use of the Pual participle with its fullest intensive sense, to strengthen the affirmation of the action by the Kal, is a singular construction. Literally rendered it is "shutting and closely shut up," thus including

(1) the act of closing, and

(2) the continuance of that act,

συγκεκλεισμένη καὶ ὀχυρομέμη (LXX), "clausa at que munita" (Vulg). So also the Chaldea paraphrase. The remainder of the verse strengthens still more the assertion of the state of siege. The king of Jericho, such was his alarm, regarded his city as a beleaguered one, from the mere presence of Joshua and his host in its vicinity.

Joshua 6:2

And the Lord said. This is no new source of information for Joshua. Jehovah is here obviously identical, as commentators are generally agreed, with the "Captain of the Lord's host" in the last chapter (comp. Genesis 18:2, Genesis 18:13; Exodus 3:2, Exodus 3:4). Thus shalt thou do six days. "Seven days together they walk this round; they made this therefore their Sabbath day's journey; and who knows whether the last and longest walk, which brought victory to Israel, were not on this day? Not long before, an Israelite is stoned to death for but gathering a few sticks that day; now all the host of Israel must walk about the walls of a large and populous city, and yet do not violate the day. God's precept is the rule of the justice and holiness of our actions" (Bp. Hall).

Joshua 6:4

And seven priests shall bear before the ark. The Vulgate puts "on the seventh day" in connection with this part of the sentence; Luther also translates thus. The LXX; which Calvin and our translators and the majority of commentators follow, regard this part of the sentence as stating what was to be done on the six days, and rightly so, as Joshua 6:8-14 clearly show. That the historian, as has been before remarked, did not always give the full instructions Joshua received is evident from this passage. The priests are not said to have been instructed to sound the trumpet on the six days; yet we learn from Joshua 5:13 that they did so. It is rather implied than expressed that the ark was also to be borne in procession; but that this was (lone is evident from Joshua 5:8. Seven trumpets of rams' horns. There is no mention of rams' horns in the original, which is שׁוֹפְרוֹת trumpets of jubilee, i.e; of triumph (hardly as Gesenius, "alarm trumpets,'' though not necessarily, with Dr. Vaughan in his 'Heroes of Faith,' "the emblems of festival, not of warfare"). The word הַיּוֹבְלִים is derived from the same root as the Latin is in the phrase Io Triumphe (cf. Greek ἰώ), and according to Gesenius our word "yule" is also derived from this root. The שׁוֹפַר as the next verse shows, was a curved instrument, in shape like a ram's horn, though not necessarily of that material; whereas the חַצֹצְרָה was a straight trumpet. Seven times. The importance of the number seven as indicative of completeness is here strongly indicated. Seven priests were to carry seven trumpets for seven days. The word for to swear, נִשְבַּע literally to be sevened, means to have one's vow consecrated and confirmed by seven sacrifices or seven witnesses (see Genesis 21:28, Genesis 21:30). The number seven, says Bahr in his 'Symbolik des Alten Testament,' 1; 187, 188, is the sign of the relation, union, communion between God and the world, as represented by the number three and four respectively, just as twelve is in another relation (see note on Joshua 21:3). Its meaning, according to Bahr, among the heathen is somewhat different. There it means the harmony of the universe, and is signified by the seven stars, to which, and neither more nor less, was the power of influencing man's destiny ascribed. And the priests shall blow with the trumpets. "Fac tibi tribas ductiles, si sacerdos es, immo, quia sacerdos es (gens enim regalis effectus es et sacerdotium sanctum, de te enim scripture est), fac tibi tribas ductiles ex Scripturis sanctis" (Orig; Hom. 7 on Joshua).

Joshua 6:5

When they make a long blast with the ram's horn. Literally, as they draw out with the horn of jubilee, i.e; blow a prolonged blast (of. Exodus 19:13). Here the word used is horn of jubilee, but not necessarily of ram's horn, as our version, any more than the modern horn, though it takes the place of the more primitive instrument made of that material, must itself be a ram's horn. So Rosenmuller. The word. קֶרֶן in Hebrew is used in different senses, all, however, growing out of the one original sense. Thus it is used for a musical instrument, for rays of light, for the projections extending from the corners of the altar, and in Isaiah 5:1, for a mountain peak (like the German Schreekhorn, Gabelhorn, Weisshorn). Origen compares the blast of the trumpet at which the walls of Jericho fell, to the sound of the last trumpet, which shall finally destroy the kingdoms of sin. When ye hear. The Keri substitute here, as in many other places, כְּ for בְּ but unnecessarily. The Keri means at the very moment when, the Chethibh simply and less emphatically, "when" (see Isaiah 5:15). Flat. Literally, underneath it, i.e; the walls were to give way from their very foundations. Every man straight before him. There was no need to surround the city, nor to endeavour to enter it through a "practicable breach." The walls were to give way entirely, and the warriors might advance at once, in the order of battle, and from the place in which they were at the moment when they raised the shout of triumph (יָרִיעוּ) for the inhabitants of Jericho alone were evidently no match for them in numbers (cf. Joshua 10:3; Joshua 11:1-3), though they might have hoped to hold out some time under the protection of their walls.

Joshua 6:7

And he said. The text has they said. Our translators follow the Masoretic emendation. If we follow the original we must suppose that the priests, or, as with Keil and Knobel, the Shoterim (Joshua 1:10), conveyed Joshua's command to the troops.

Joshua 6:8

He that is armed, or rather disencumbered, i.e; prepared for battle (see Joshua 4:13). Similarly, in the next verse, "the armed men," i.e; the host in marching order, as we say. Kimchi and Jarchi refer this to the Reubenites and their brethren, but without sufficient authority. Keil thinks that it was impossible that the unarmed people would have gone with the procession as "the rereward" (see note on Joshua 5:13), because no command to that effect is given in Joshua 6:3. But as he has told us in Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 4:1-24; and as we have just seen in Joshua 4:4. the command to Joshua is not fully given. A short abstract of it is given, and it is to be filled up in detail from the subsequent narrative.

Joshua 6:10

Ye shall not shout. No sign of triumph was to be raised; but the Israelites, their priests, and the ark of their covenant were in solemn silence to encompass the city day by day, until they were commanded to raise the shout of victory. The people of Jericho knew only too well what this religious procession meant. As a military manoeuvre (so Calvin) it was worse than useless, it was ridiculous. It actually invited attack; nay, it afforded, if the interpretation in the note on Joshua 6:8 be correct, an admirable opportunity for the slaughter of defenceless women and children by a sudden sally from the city. But the history of the Exodus was not unknown to the king and people of Jericho. The inspired law giver, with his miraculous powers, and his claim to direct intercourse with the Most High, was a personage only too well known to them, and his mission was only too sure a token of the Divine sanction which rested on their proceedings. His supernatural qualifications had evidently descended to his successor, and now it was terribly clear that this awful silent march, with the army equipped for battle, but not attempting to engage in it, the seven priests with their seven trumpets, the visible symbol of the Presence of the God of Israel, attended by the awestruck multitude awaiting the Divine pleasure, was but the prelude to some new interposition from on high, the mysterious foreshadowing of some hitherto unheard of calamity which should befall the devoted city. There seems in this narrative no choice between rejecting the whole as an absurd fable, or accepting it as the record of a "notable miracle." The account is minute in its detail. The historian, if he be an historian, is distinctly impressed with the idea that he is relating a miracle. The obvious course for Joshua, if he were not relying on supernatural aid, was either to assault or to blockade the city. To perambulate it for days in the expectation of some convulsion of nature such as, we are told, frequently happened in that volcanic region, would have been the extreme of childish folly, and quite contrary to that common sense and military skill with which, as we have seen, Joshua undoubtedly was endowed. If he were possessed, seven days beforehand, with a conviction that an earthquake were imminent, such a persuasion would be of itself miraculous. Paulus' idea of a mine having been sprung is still less compatible with our narrative. Von Lengerke, in his 'Cana supposes that the astonishing success of the Israelites grew into a wonder in the hands of the narrator. But this involves the entire falsehood, not only of the command given to Joshua by Jehovah, but of the seven days' perambulation of Jericho, and the remaining incidents of the siege, a theory not easily reconcilable with the minute accuracy of detail displayed throughout the narrative. The seven days' circuit of Jericho must, therefore, either be denied altogether, in spite of the numerous evidences of genuineness which meet us in the narrative; or, if explained, the only explanation which is consistent with the fact is, that Joshua had received an intimation that he was not to expect to effect the reduction of the city by natural means, but was to wait patiently for an interposition from on high.

Joshua 6:13

The rereward (see Joshua 5:9). Literally, the gathering together and then the body of troops which collects the stragglers, the rear guard, as in Numbers 10:25; Isaiah 52:12; Isaiah 58:8. Calvin renders here by quia cogebat agmen. But the LXX. and Vulgate render by ὁ λοιπὸς ὄχλος and vulgus reliquum. So Luther, der Haufe. The LXX; however, in Isaiah 58:9 translates the same word by οὐραγοῦντες, i.e; "qui extremum agmen ducunt, et quasi caudam efficiunt" (Rosenmuller). The word is not the same as that translated rereward in 1 Samuel 29:2, the only other place where our version has "rereward," where there can be no question of the rendering being correct, since the literal meaning there is the hindermost.

Joshua 6:15

And it came to pass on the seventh day. Why did God command this long pause of suspense and expectation? Even to teach us that His ways are not as our ways, and that we had far better leave the issue in His hands, than by our impatience to anticipate, and not unfrequently frustrate, the course of His Providence.—Calvin. There is a time to act and a time to wait patiently. If we seek His guidance by prayer, God will tell us when to do either. And when it is our duty not to do anything ourselves, but to wait for the deliverance which He never fails to send in His own good time, let us be careful to restrain ourselves, lest by our rash intermeddling with His designs, we bring disgrace and disaster upon ourselves and His cause. Had the Israelites disobeyed His command, and instead of the solemn procession round Jericho, ventured to attack the city at once, it would have fared worse with them than at Ai, or at the wilderness of Pavan (Numbers 14:45). About the dawning. So the Chethibh. The Ken substitutes כְּ for בְּ, i.e; as soon as it was dawn. Literally, "as the dawn went up." After this manner. Literally, according to this judgment, "sieur dispositum erat" (Vulg). For a similar use of מִשְׁפָט see Genesis 40:13, and compare the proverb mos pro lege.

Joshua 6:16

When the priests. There is no "when" in the original, nor is it needed (see Keil).

Joshua 6:17

Accursed. Rather, devotea, ἀναθεμα LXX. The original meaning of this word is derived from הרם to "shut up." Hence it originally means "a net." With this we may compare the well known Eastern word harem, meaning the enclosed apartments reserved for the women of the family. Hence it comes to mean under a ban, devoted, generally to utter destruction under the pressure of a vow to God, as in Numbers 21:2, or in consequence of His command (see Leviticus 27:29; Deuteronomy 13:15 (Hebrew 16); 1 Kings 20:42, "the man of my devoting," חֶרְמִי, etc). But in Leviticus 27:21, Numbers 18:14, the חֵרֵם as devoted to the Lord, became the property of the priest. This ban was the most solemn and tremendous religious sentence, the absolute and final excommunication of the old law. The sin of Saul (1 Samuel 15:1-35) was the sparing of anything whatever in the city which had been laid under the ban—a ban which Saul had been specially commanded to execute (1 Samuel 15:3) according to the principles laid down in Deuteronomy 13:1-18. When Keil, however, states that the ban "could never be pronounced upon things and property alone, but only upon open idolaters, either with or without their possessions," he appears to have overlooked Le Deuteronomy 27:16-21, where a man may devote irredeemably to God property of his own. In his subsequent work, however, Keil qualifies this assertion by a consideration of this very passage. Idolatrous worship was the one thing which justified the Israelites in laying one of their own cities under the ban (see Deuteronomy 13:12 Deuteronomy 13:18, above cited). But (Deuteronomy 7:2) it had been pronounced against the Canaanites. Property, how. ever, save in the case of Jericho, seems to have been exempted from the ban (see Joshua 8:2). Even at Jericho the silver and the gold, the brass and the iron, were placed in the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 5:1-19, 24). "Why," says Theodoret, "was the city thus devoted? It was devoted on the same principle which offered the first fruits to God, since it was the first fruits of their conquests." Because she hid. See for the peculiar form of this word as though it came from a quadriliteral הבאה

Joshua 6:18

Accursed thing. Better," thing devoted," as this keeps up the idea of something solemnly set apart to God, to be dealt with as He thinks fit. Lest ye make yourselves accursed when ye take of the accursed thing. Rather, with Keil and Rosenmuller, lest ye devote the city to destruction, and then take of what has been thus devoted. And make the camp of Israel a curse. Literally, and put the camp of Israel in the position of a thing devoted. And trouble it (cf. Joshua 7:25, Joshua 7:26; also Genesis 34:30).

Joshua 6:19

Consecrated unto the Lord. Literally, as margin, holiness unto the Lord (cf. Exodus 28:36; Exodus 39:30; Le Exodus 27:14, Exodus 27:21; Jeremiah 2:3). An expression used of anything specially devoted to God.

Joshua 6:20

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets, and it came to pass. Literally, and the people shouted, and they blew with the trumpets, and it came to pass as soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet. The latter part of this sentence is a more full and accurate repetition of what is stated in the former. The shouting and the blowing with the trumpets were all but simultaneous, but the latter was in reality the signal for the former—a signal which was immediately and triumphantly responded to.

Joshua 6:21

And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city. For a discussion of the difficulties arising from this fulfilment of a stern decree, see Introduction.


Joshua 6:1-21

We come now to the command that was laid on Joshua. And hero we may observe three points.

I. SUCCESS WAS CERTAIN IF GOD'S COMMANDS WERE OBEYED. God does not say, "I will give," but, "I have given" Jericho into thine hand. Not only has the fiat gone forth, but the work is done, when the soldier of the Lord has made up his mind to obey the Lord's commands. Thus, whatever be the work to which we set our hands, be it public or private, in the world or in our own hearts, so that it be for God, and it is our duty to do it, we must regard our success as assured. Moses hesitated and argued about his fitness for the task laid upon him. Jeremiah shrank from facing the children of Israel with his message of wrath. But the apostles of Christ, when sent forth to conquer the world by no other means than the proclamation of the truth, never stood appalled by the magnitude of the work, but were filled with a sublime confidence that all should be as God had said. So when we go forth to besiege some modern Jericho, let us hear beforehand the voice of God saying, "See, I have given it into thine hand." We have only to ascertain clearly that the duty is laid upon us, that we are not laying a presumptuous hand upon a task which is not meant for us. This done, we may go boldly forward on our way.

II. THERE ARE STRONGHOLDS WHICH WILL YIELD TO PRAYER ALONE. Jericho was taken by no other means than by the seven days' procession. The rest of the cities of Canaan were taken by storm in the ordinary way. But Jericho was the first of them. Thus it often pleases God, when we enter first upon our warfare, to remove some temptation from us in a striking and wonderful manner in answer to prayer. This is to serve as an encouragement to us, as a proof both of His presence and of His power. Many of God's saints can tell of such encouragements, mercifully vouchsafed to them when commencing the struggle against sin, that they might know experimentally for themselves, and not by the report of others, that the Lord was indeed the Almighty. When some work is going on for God in which it is impossible for us to join, we may aid it by our prayers. And those prayers may prove mightier than the feeble efforts of those actually engaged in the work. When those in whom we have an interest are wandering far from God, and it is not our place to instruct or rebuke them, we may pray for them; and many are the souls which have been converted to God through the might of prayer alone. So when the Church of Christ suffers persecution from worldly men, she is not to use worldly weapons in her defence. Let her be steadfast and diligent in her daily offering of intercession and praise, and the walls of Jericho that frown above her shall fall down flat, and she shall divide its spoils.

III. EACH HAS HIS APPOINTED SHARE IN THE ATTACK ON EVIL. Our attack is to be an united and orderly one. No disorderly rout encompassed Jericho, each "fighting for his own hand." There was a fixed order in the attack, in which each had his proper share. The ark of God was carried by the priest; that is, the ministers of religion are to lead the way in public and private intercession for the cause. They blow with the horns of jubilee; that is, they sound the note of war against the evil against which they are arrayed. They stir God's people up to the fight. And when the time appointed has come that the assault haste be made, their prayers, intercessions, exhortations are redoubled; the people respond to their efforts by raising their voices unanimously in the same holy cause; the bulwarks of the stronghold of evil give way; and Israel advances, every man straight before him, to raze it to the ground.

The actual fulfilment of God's commands now demands our notice. We may observe here:—

I. THAT GOD'S PEOPLE ARE SECURE FROM ALL DANGER WHEN IN THE WAY OF DUTY. From a military point of view, as has been already observed, these dispositions were absurd. To compass the city in this manner was to invite attack. Yet it was done because God commanded it, and no evil ensued. So a Christian is ever safe, however much worldly wisdom may condemn him, if he be in the path of duty. "No weapon that is formed against him shall prosper." We must not mind exposing ourselves to the scoffs and jeers of the profane, the grave remonstrances of the worldly minded, the prophecies of failure on the part of the timid and timeserving, No matter how imprudent our action, according to the world's standard; so long as it be right it will certainly prosper at last. All great movements for good have been branded at the outset as enthusiastic folly. Yet faith and perseverance have succeeded in the end. The walls of many a spiritual Jericho have been brought to the ground by a steady persistence in what was known to be right, however unreasonable it may have seemed to unbelievers.

II. WE MUST NOT BE "WEARY IN WELL DOING." For seven long days did the strange procession encompass Jericho. Not the slightest effect was produced of any kind till the prescribed task was accomplished. Bishop Hall, regarding the number seven as indicative of completeness, tells us that there are many of our infirmities which we must not expect to overcome till the end of our lives. Not till then will God vouchsafe us the measure of faith to overthrow them finally. Meanwhile we must watch and pray and follow the ark and continue in our round of devotion, until the time comes for God to visit us. We must not be depressed if no signs of progress appear, if, after having encompassed the city six days, and six times on the seventh day, all appears as usual We must patiently wait God's time, and when He announces the hour of triumph, and not till then, we may rejoice that our enemies are in our power.

III. GOD DEMANDS THE ABSOLUTE SURRENDER OF ALL CARNAL AFFECTIONS. Jericho and all it contained was to be utterly destroyed. And so, as far as we are concerned, must all the desires of this lower world be put down. No doubt it was a great temptation to the Israelites (Achan's case proves that it was so) to see so great a store of valuable things doomed to destruction. "To what purpose is this waste?" was a question which must have occurred to many there. So it is a sore temptation to the Christian to see this world's goods within his reach and he forbidden to grasp them. They were intended to be enjoyed, and why should he not enjoy them? Youth seeks after the indulgences of the flesh, after recreations and amusements. Manhood strives after the prizes of this world—power, wealth, honours, rewards. They are innocent in themselves; why should we not possess them? Because they are devoted. This does not refer to pleasures and blessings God has put in our hands. If He has blessed them we may safely use them. But pleasures, and honours, and emoluments for their own sake, things which to grasp at would lead us from the path of duty—these are the spoils of Jericho, devoted to God, which we may not touch. Self denial, simple discharge of duty from conscientious motives, and the consequent absence of ambition or greed of gain, willingness to accept the lowest place, disinclination to accept riches, honours, positions of influence, and authority, unless to decline them would clearly be wrong—these are the characteristics of the true servant of God. He makes a holocaust of all vain desires and selfish motives, and is willing to give up the richest prizes earth can offer, unless God gives them to him.


Joshua 6:8

Siege of Jericho.

The Red Sea; a land where there was no water; want of food; terrors of the spies; the warlike people of Bashan; Jordan impossible; a Jericho impregnable. Such are the successive strains made on the faith and resolution of Israel. God's people go from strength to strength, but also from difficulty to difficulty. Never is it the case that the difficulties are entirely done and the prospects entirely bright. On their newest difficulty let us spend a little time; for all of us have our Jerichos to face and to subdue. And I ask you to observe first,

I. THE IMPOSSIBLE TASK HERE SET THEM. I doubt not the stoutest warriors so estimated it. Kitto (Pictorial Bible on this chap) describes, from his own experience of a siege, the confidence felt by all Asiatics when protected by walls, and the despair with which they face them, even today, though in some degree familiar with the use of artillery. Before that was invented a walled city was deemed almost unreducible, except by starvation, by the desultory warriors of Syria. Here they could hardly, without themselves starving, starve them out. They were unfamiliar with all the science of war. Had no theory of sapping or breaching to aid them. To leave such a fortress in their rear would be to subject themselves to attack from that side, while to carry it by assault was utterly beyond their power. An impossible task is set them. And such are many of the tasks assigned us. Sometimes, indeed, there are easy duties assigned to our opening powers. "The bruised reed is not broken" with a burden beyond its strength. But our duties in this world are always on a scale which assumes we have omnipotent help within our reach: Abraham's charge to leave ancestral home: that of Moses to invade Egypt and liberate God's people: that of David to earn a right to the throne of Israel: that of Esther to save her people: that of the Apostles to "heal the sick and cast out devils," and subsequently to "go and teach all nations:" that of all the saints in all ages. Bushnell has a sermon on "Duty rot measured by ability," his text being the command to feed the multitude—"Give ye them to eat"—given to men with only five barley loaves and two small fishes. We have all tasks like the reduction of Jericho, utterly beyond our unaided strength. To enter through the strait gate; to keep the narrow way; to overcome in the conflict with principalities and powers in high places; to be steadfast unto death; to secure, by our testimony, our efforts, our prayers, the salvation of those who are perishing around us; to hope against hope; to gather meetness for the inheritance of the saints in light—oh, what impossible tasks are these? But we "can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth us," and instead of being dismayed at the impossibilities we should rather rejoice, for a precept of impossibility is a promise of omnipotent help. Shrink not from the Jericho you have to assail. God will give it into your hand. Secondly observe—

II. THE METHODS OF FAITH. Prescribing their task. He prescribes the method of it as well. They are to march round Jericho once a day for six days, and on the seventh day seven times; the people silent, the priests sounding the trumpets and horns. Only once, when specially bidden, is Israel to shout. We read nothing of mounds, battering rams, slingers picking off the soldiers on the walls, nothing of mines or ladders. The method was not one of war but one of faith. The very trumpets are priestly trumpets, the sounds of which were calls to prayer and promises of help. So much they were to do, and nothing more. In subsequent engagements they would have to fight; in this God alone would work. And the method prescribed is accordingly one virtually of prayer and waiting. "Stand still and see the salvation of God:" a method in which their faith is at once

(1) tried,

(2) honoured, and so increased.

In this respect how like many methods which Christ prescribed. In His miracles, for instance, you will observe that the faith of the recipient was invariably in some way or other tested, brought to light, and only then rewarded. "Go to the pool of Siloam and wash," seemed a precept as unlikely to bring sight as marching round Jericho was to destroy its walls. "Take thy hook and take up the first that cometh up," was an unlikely way of paying tribute. "Go show yourselves to the priests," He said to the ten lepers, and only after they had started they were cleansed. His methods are always such as try our faith first and then reward it. Here is a road to the conquest of Jericho which the doubters in the camp thought would prove very long indeed. "Of what use could it be to march round and round, always reconnoitring, and never doing anything more?" How they would point to the growing confidence of the besieged, who from their walls could be seen mocking the futile display of strength! But such was the method prescribed to test and elicit their faith. As the multitude fed by Christ were required to sit down on the grass, to indicate thereby their faith and expectation, so Israel was required to march round Jericho. And we sometimes are required to pursue methods of faith which seem little likely to work much result: to be meek where high spirit would seem more useful; to wait with patience where fussy enterprise would seem more effective; to meet error with argument instead of repressing it by force; to observe sacraments whose object or philosophy we can hardly understand; to obtain the things we desire by deserving rather than by greedily seeking them. Do not murmur at the methods of faith which are enjoined. In the case of Jericho the method was successful On the seventh day, when the people shouted at Joshua's signal, the walls of Jericho fell flat. "The earth shook and trembled: the foundations of heaven moved and shook because he was wrath." And in an instant, without a stone protecting them, without their people marshalled, without any array against their foes, Israel can enter and destroy. The ways of the enemy seem short, but are long and fruitless. God's ways seem likely to be long, but are short and direct. Take His ways, and however for a while your patience may be tried, the end, bringing all you hoped for, will reward you for all suspense and all delay.—G.


Joshua 6:20

The taking of Jericho.

The taking of Jericho is the first great victory of the Israelites over the Canaanites. It is a type of the victory of the people of God over their adversaries. We learn from it the secret and the method of success in this conflict.

I. The first thing demanded of the people of Israel is A GREAT ACT OF FAITH. It was no slight exercise of faith to believe that the sounding of the sacred trumpets would suffice to overthrow those massive walls which rose like impregnable ramparts around the city. It was necessary that the besiegers should rise above all the merely material aspects of the situation, and endure, as said the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "as seeing him who is invisible," and relying wholly on His word (Hebrews 11:27).

II. This faith is not a mere feeling of trust; IT INVOLVES ALSO A POSITIVE AND PERILOUS DEED. The Israelites are not to wait in inaction the working of a miracle on their behalf; they have a direct command to obey. The ark is to be triumphantly borne, sometimes to the stirring sound of trumpets, around the walls of Jericho, from the top of which the enemy might take deadly aim at the besiegers. Thus, for Israel to believe is to obey; it is to act in spite of danger. This is the faith of which it is said that it "overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4).

III. THIS FAITH FINDS A RESPONSE IN THE MIGHTY GRACE OF GOD. That grace delights in sovereign manifestations. In the exercise of His absolute freedom, God has often chosen "things that are not to bring to nought things that are," (1 Corinthians 1:28), thus magnifying His grace by the very disproportion between the results and the apparent means used to effect them. What power is there in the sound of a trumpet to shake the solid foundation of a city wall? Can its shrillest blast make the massive granite tremble to its fall? God will show that the power is His alone; that Israel's confidence must be in no arm of flesh, but in Him only. Undoubtedly He does often make use of those natural means which are of His own appointment, and His grace is not in the ordinary course of things opposed to nature. Religious life is not magic, but those grand manifestations of Divine sovereignty which are called miracles bring us into immediate contact with the sovereign power of God from which all blessed influences flow. Let us not forget, moreover, that there is a distinction to be observed between what may be called the creative period of the religion of redemption, and its subsequent stage of preservation and development. The current of the new life must first hollow out its channel, before it can pursue its even way between the banks of a defined course. Hence with regard to miracles, there is a great difference between the age which saw the first beginnings of Christianity, and our own day, which is an era of development only.

IV. The fall of the walls of Jericho before the blast of the sacred trumpets is an apt symbol of THE TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT OVER MATERIAL FORCE. The sacred trumpets accompanied the songs of Israel, its hymns of worship raised to the true God. It was this glorious truth of the one living and true God which finally subdued the Canaanitish nations. Mens agitat molem. Mind moves matter; it always triumphs over material obstacles. Force can avail nothing against it, because it is itself the power of God. Primitive Christianity saw the citadel of paganism fall before it. All-powerful Rome fell prostrate when the gospel trumpet sent forth its sonorous voice into the midst of a down trodden and decaying world. Thus, also, in a later age did the fortress of Romish superstition crumble into ruin before Luther's hymn, which embodies the whole spirit of the Reformation. The hymn on justification by faith was like Israel's trumpets to the Papal Jericho. "Believe only, and thou shalt see the glory of God" (John 11:20).—E. DE P.


Joshua 6:20


When the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been compassed about seven days" (Hebrews 11:30), he sets his seal to the supernatural character of this event. Not by any kind of natural force—undermining, storming, or even earthquake—but by the faith that lays hold on the unseen power of God, was the effect produced. It was a link in the chain of marvellous Divine manifestations by which those times were signalised. The miraculous element is inseparably interwoven with the fabric of the history. It can be denied here only by those who are prepared to relegate the whole to the region of fable and romance. The fall of this fortified city of Jericho had a peculiar meaning, and stood in important relation to the events that followed. As the strongest fortress of Canaan, its conquest was the key to the possession of the whole land. As pre-eminent, probably, in its wickedness, its doom was a prophecy of the unmitigated judgments of God on the abominations of Phoenician idolatry. The solemn procession of the ark, time after time, around the city was a significant declaration of its sovereignty over it and all that it contained; and when at last it fell, it was as the first fruits of the harvest field, "accursed"—devoted—to show that the whole land was His. Thus were the Israelites taught that an inheritance which they had not won for themselves by their own skill and strength, but which had been given to them by the Lord (Joshua 6:2, Joshua 6:16), must be held in unreserved allegiance to Him (Psalms 44:3). We see in this event a typical representation of the Divine conquest of the powers of error and evil in the world. It prefigures the assault of the kingdom of light upon the kingdom of darkness, and sets forth, as in acted parable, the apostolic truth, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4).

I. IN JERICHO ITSELF WE SEE A TYPE OF THE STRONGHOLDS OF INIQUITY IN THE WORLD.—The city was "straitly shut up; none went out and none came in" (Joshua 6:1). The combination of the passive and active forms here indicates how the natural strength of the fortifications was supplemented by the resistive spirit of the people. We are reminded of those conditions of the human soul in which it is impenetrable by the influence of Divine truth; resolute in its unbelief, impenitence, corrupt affection, evil habit; closely shut against the powers that would bring into it a new and nobler life. But the picture of the closed city suggests not so much the resistance of the individual soul to redeeming influence, as that of the conspicuous forms of evil existing in the world—false systems of thought, corrupt institutions, pernicious social usages; strongholds of infidelity, vice, tyranny, superstition, idolatry. We are reminded how deeply rooted they are, how strong in the radical tendencies of human nature and in the traditionary custom of ages. Like Jericho, the very hot bed of Canaanite pollution, in the midst of its glorious palm groves, so do these forms of evil stand as blots on the fair creation of God, and cast their deadly shadow on the otherwise glad life of man. It is against these that the kingdom of truth and righteousness wages an exterminating war, "casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

II. THE MODE OF THE CITY'S FALL IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE RELATION EXISTING BETWEEN THE HUMAN INSTRUMENT AND THE DIVINE POWER IN THIS SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. Note the apparent impotence of the means used in view of the end to be answered. This silent procession of the ark and the armed host round and round the walls, the silence broken only by the rude music of the priests' rams' horns—what a solemn farce it must have seemed! We can imagine with what derision it was greeted by the men of the city. If that is all the power that can be brought against them, they have little need for fear. The spiritual analogy is plain. To men destitute of faith, incapable of discovering the resistless force that lies behind them, the instruments of the kingdom of Christ seem very feeble. The workers of iniquity, within their refuges of lies, bold in the strength of "blood and custom," laugh at weapons such as these. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:18). But outward appearances are a very false rule of judgment. The sovereign power can work through meanest, simplest instruments. Their efficacy is often in inverse ratio to their apparent feebleness. "We have the treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7). "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

III. THE DELAY OF THE ISSUE AFFORDS A LESSON IN THE PATIENCE THAT WAITS ON GOD IN THE PATH OF OBEDIENCE AND SERVICE. The seven days' process, in addition to its symbolic meaning, was a trial of the faith and constancy of the people. "By faith the walls fell down," because it was confidence in the unseen Power that kept both priests and warriors steadfast in their seemingly meaningless and profitless round till the appointed time. All great issues in the onward progress of the kingdom of Christ—the fall of corrupt institutions, the doom of reigning iniquities—have their appointed time. This applies pre-eminently to the grand final issue: "Of that day and hour knoweth no man." But in the fulness of the time the glorious vision shall appear. The slowness of the process of destruction and restitution is strange to us. We cry, in our moments of impatience ―

"Oh, why these years of waiting here,
These ages of delay?"

But "he that believeth shall not make haste." He knows how to wait, "For the vision is yet for an appointed time," etc. (Habakkuk 2:3, Habakkuk 2:4). Faith, on its watchtower, sees the grand procession of events moving on to the end of the days, when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God," to lay the last stronghold of Satan in ruins, and "create the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Peter 3:13).—W.


Joshua 6:20

Delusive trust.

"The wall fell down fiat." A strong city besieged; yet no trenches opened, no batteries erected against it, no engines of assault employed. Armed men in two divisions, separated by the ark and priests who precede it, compass the city once a day in silence, save for the sound of the horns blown by the seven priests. After six days the marching commences early in the morning, and the circuit is completed seven times, when the priests blow a long peculiar blast, the whole host upraises a loud cry, and behold the wall of Jericho, with its lofty battlements, totters and falls. The joyful soldiers, in perfect order, rush triumphantly into the city, and put to the sword the dismayed inhabitants. Many days have these inhabitants wondered at the strange method in which they are besieged. Fearing the Israelites, they have remained behind the shelter of their fortifications, and waited to receive their foes' attack, and lo! in a moment they are laid bare to a merciless onslaught. History is instructive; it contains lessons for all ages. Let us try and lead some lessons written clearly on the prostrate walls of Jericho.

I. We are reminded of THE INSECURE DEFENCES ON WHICH MANY RELY. All men arc not unmindful of the ills of life to which they are exposed; many distinctly recognise the fact that the castle in which they dwell is, or soon may be, surrounded by foes. But against these they have made preparation, and are confident of their ability to resist the most impetuous attack. A store of wealth has been accumulated to guard against poverty; and to be the centre of a group of friends will surely prove an adequate security against the invasion of loneliness or melancholy. Alas! how unstable are the foundations on which rest the hopes of men. Successive losses reduce the millionaire to beggary; and removals and deaths strip the gayest man of the company in which he delighted.

"After summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful, nipping cold."

Lest a good man should be forgotten, we erect a tablet "in lasting memory," and ere a year has elapsed a fire consumes it to ashes.

II. THE SUDDENNESS WITH WHICH TRUSTED DEFENCES ARE CAST DOWN. Often there is little warning prior to the catastrophe, scarcely the rumbling that precedes an earthquake. Feasting amid splendour, the handwriting is seen on the wall, while the enemy is entering the city by the dry bed of the river. The head of a family labouring to provide for its wants is stricken down by disease or accident, and the strong arm which kept the foe at bay is suddenly powerless.

III. THE REASON OF THE DESTRUCTION IS SOMETIMES TO BE FOUND IN THE FACT THAT MEN WERE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD. Hitherto we have considered the general lot without distinction of persons. All are subject to a reverse of fortune; "There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." Yet the author of this last clause remarks, "Surely I know it shall be well with them that fear God; but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not God." The downfall of the seemingly impregnable fortifications of Jericho was due to the might of Jehovah fighting on behalf of His people. It was a strife between true religion and idolatry. And today, whilst "all things work together for good to them that love God," the troubles which beset the ungodly may be intended as correctives or judgments. We cannot be oblivious of modern instances where the thunderbolt of Divine wrath has fallen on guilty nations and individuals. The hand of the Almighty can be as truly traced as in the sudden overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. His day comes upon men "like a thief in the night," and just when the wall of defence is most needed does it full, leaving the inhabitant a prey to terrible assault. If the vessel's unseaworthiness were discovered in the harbour, what mattered it? but to find it out on the tempestuous ocean, this is misery indeed. Call to mind Voltaire's wretched lament upon his deathbed, that popular applause could then do naught to help him: "I have swallowed nothing but smoke; I have intoxicated myself with the incense that turned my head." Happy may we count ourselves when God exerts His power, and shows us the penetrable character of our security, while yet there is time to seek a remedy. Did not Paul rejoice that the bright light from heaven revealed the darkness in which he had been travelling, and that the "knowledge of Christ" completely overcame his old self-righteous ideas? His boasted privileges and conformity to law yielded at the first breath of the words of Christ, and Christianity, defied so arrogantly, reigned within his breast. Perhaps, O Christian, thou wast rating too highly some of the pleasures of earth, refined though they were, and in mercy thou hast been at a stroke deprived of them

IV. THE IRRETRIEVABLE DESTRUCTION which God effects. The walls of Jericho were not rebuilt, at least by the inhabitants; and on the man who in after years presumptuously endeavoured to act in defiance of the threat of Joshua was seen a terrible fulfilment of prophecy. The temple of Jerusalem is another example of lasting ruin. But in the spiritual realm it is no matter for regret that a curse rests upon the reconstruction of a wicked security. The obstacle to the admission of the Saviour into the heart once surmounted should never again be built up. The hold of the world once loosened should never be allowed to environ us again. Never can the hour in which the utter defencelessness of the soul was realised be blotted out of the book of memory; and all the after lessons which stern experience has taught us are indelibly imprinted upon the mind. The uprooting of our affections caused by the loss of a loved one; the failure of friendship in the time of exigency; the sickness that dismissed the shows of life and confronted us with the realities of eternity: these events have burnt themselves into our very being, and are become part of ourselves. To bring the matter to a practical issue, ask, Where do we place our trust? Is it not wisdom to choose as our refuge the unchanging God; not to trust any arm of flesh, but to rest in the mercy and love of the Eternal? Not to structures which human skill erects, but to the everlasting hills will we look for aid. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people."—A.

Verses 22-27



Joshua 6:22

Had said. Here we have an instance of the use of the perfect as a pluperfect. We can hardly suppose, as Keil observes, that Joshua gave these orders in the midst of the turmoil and confusion attendant on the sack of the city (see above, Joshua 1:11; Joshua 2:1). Go into the harlot's house. The preservation of Rahab's house must have been a part of the miracle, since it was upon the city wall (cf. Hebrews 11:30, Hebrews 11:31).

Joshua 6:23

Brought out. Therefore the medieval legends concerning Rahab's house must be classed among superstitious fables. Rahab and her family and relations were saved, but her house shared the destruction which befel the rest of the city. Origen cites in reference to the deliverance of Rahab the harlot, 1 Corinthians 6:11, and Titus 3:3 (cf. also Ephesians 2:1-8; Ephesians 5:8; Colossians 3:7). Without the camp of Israel. Not in the camp of Israel outside the city, as some have rendered. The Hebrew distinctly connects the word מִהוּץ with the camp. They were as yet, as Gentiles, unclean (cf. Numbers 5:2; Numbers 31:19).

Joshua 6:25

Unto this day. This may either be interpreted of herself, or, according to s common Hebrew idiom, of her family (cf. Joshua 17:14-18; Joshua 24:17). For a fuller discussion of the bearing of this passage on the date of the Book of Joshua, see Introduction. There is no mention of Rahab's marriage in the Old Testament. Lightfoot ('Hebrew and Talmudicai Exercitations?' Matthew 1:5) mentions a tradition that she married Joshua! Dr. W. H. Mill, in his treatise on the genealogies of our Lord, defends the tradition St. Matthew has followed by showing that Salmon's age at the time gives immense probability to the statement. Some (see the Bishop of Bath and Wells' article in Smith's ' Dictionary of the Bible') suppose that Salmon was one of the spies.

Joshua 6:26

And Joshua adjured them. Caused them to swear, i.e; bound them by an oath, as the Hiphil implies here. This was the strict meaning of "adjure" at the time our version was made (cf. Matthew 26:63). But it had also the less definite meaning which it now has, of solemnly warning a person to do something or to leave it undone. The object of this solemn adjuration (see above) was to preserve Jericho as a spot devoted to God for ever; and for this reason a curse was pronounced upon any one who should attempt to found a city upon the devoted spot (cf. Deuteronomy 13:16, "It shall not be rebuilt.") This curse actually fell on the reckless Hiel (1 Kings 16:34; cf. Josephus, 'Antiq.,' 1 Kings 16:1.1 Kings 16:8), and he saw the laying of its foundations marked by the death of his eldest son, while the death of his youngest followed its completion. It does not seem that it was forbidden to build habitations on the spot, far Jericho is frequently mentioned in the New Testament, and the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:5) was there. What seems to have been forbidden was the erection of a fortified city there. The mention of Jericho in Joshua 18:21 does not imply that it was an inhabited city, but simply that the site of Jericho fell within the border of the tribe of Benjamin. For Jerusalem is also mentioned, and we know that it did not become theirs until the time of David. Whether the "city of palm trees" (Judges 3:13) is Jericho, may be questioned. But in 2 Samuel 10:5 and in 2 Kings 2:5 express mention is made of Jericho, the last time as the site of the school of the prophets. Some commentators have endeavoured to restrict the sense of the word בָנָה used here to the building of fortifications. But this is unduly to restrict its meaning, for it is constantly used also of houses and altars (see Genesis 2:22; Genesis 8:20; 1 Kings 8:27). But the mention of gates clearly implies a fortified city. Commentators cite as parallel instances the curse of Agamemnon on Troy, of Croesus on Sidene, and of Scipio upon Carthage, and it is observed that when Augustus rebuilt Carthage he carefully avoided the old site. In his first born. בְּ is often used of the price paid for a thing, as in Genesis 29:18; Isaiah 7:23. And in his youngest son. The commentators have remarked on the rhythmical parallelism here, and Keil and others have supposed the passage to be an extract from an old Hebrew songbook, such as that of Jasher (Joshua 10:13). But this parallelism is not only a characteristic of poetry, but of all solemn and impassioned utterances in the language. (See, for instance, 2 Samuel 18:32; 1 Kings 17:14; 1 Kings 21:19). Masius, Munsterus, and others interpret the passage that the eldest son died when the foundation was laid; all the rest, but the youngest, in the interim; the youngest when the gates were set up.


Joshua 6:22-27

Salvation: its Cause and Effects

1. The first lesson we learn from this portion of the narrative is salvation by faith. Had Rahab not believed in God, she would not have saved the sides; and had she not saved the spies, she would not have been saved herself. We have St. James's authority (Joshua 2:1-25) for citing this passage as an illustration of the connection between faith and works.

I. WORKS "DO SPRING NECESSARILY OUT OF A LIVELY FAITH." Had Rahab not believed as she did, she would not have acted as she did. Her works were the direct result of her belief. On the other hand, had she not acted as she did, she would have proved that, whatever her profession to the spies might have been, she did not really believe what she pretended to believe about the power of Jehovah, and the ultimate success of Israel. Here we may discern a clue to the labyrinth of the controversy about the efficacy of faith and works respectively in the scheme of salvation. For

(a) a man who believes is naturally inclined to act upon what he believes. If he believes that he is saved through Christ, he will act as if he were saved through Christ. And

(b) it becomes important to ask, From what is he saved through Christ? And the Scripture tells us that he is not saved merely from the punishment of sin, but from sin itself. The scheme of salvation through Christ involves a belief in a "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." But it also leads us on from that reconciliation with God to the idea of an indwelling in Christ through His Spirit, which shall enable us to "put off," to "slay," to "crucify" the "flesh" or "old man," and to rise up to a renewed life of sanctity and holiness. A man who believes this must begin to do it. He must, as a matter of course, gird himself up to a conflict with all within him which is not subdued to God's will, as revealed in Christ. If he does not undertake this conflict, it is because he does not believe that he is redeemed through Christ, and that that redemption leads on to sanctification by a necessary law, that of union with Christ. Thus we learn

(c) that all whose life is avowedly and systematically inconsistent with their Christian profession, who do not try to root out all evil and to practise all kinds of good, or who set up another standard before them in their actions than that set up in God's Word, are not real believers in Christ, let their profession be what it may.

II. THERE IS NO SALVATION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT MANIFEST THEIR FAITH BY THEIR WORKS. Had Rahab not shown her faith in God by delivering the spies, there could not have been any escape for her. Whatever her private belief might have been, she would have been involved in the general destruction that overtook the whole city. And thus St. Paul and St. James alike insist upon the necessity of our Christian conduct being the manifestation of our inward belief. If it be asked how our faith should be manifested, it may be replied that there must be

(a) an abiding sense of God's goodness as displayed in the forgiveness of sins, and

(b) an earnest striving after likeness to Christ in every action of life.

And this last will stir us up to deeds of active loving kindness like that of Rahab, who, as we have seen forgot herself and the dangers that beset her in the anxious desire to befriend first the messengers of God, and next those who were near and dear to herself. If we do not these things we are none of Christ's, and, despite our loud profession that we have always belonged to Him, He will have no other greeting for us at the last than, "Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity."

III. SALVATION IS BY CHRIST'S BLOOD ALONE. Had Rahab not hung the scarlet cord in the window, she would have perished as surely, though she had saved the spies, as if she had done nothing. So our good deeds avail nothing without faith in God's mercy through Christ. They are but the deeds of the Pharisees, unless coupled with the deepest sense of our own unworthiness. We must own that when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants. "Not of works, lest any man should boast." Thus no trace of self satisfaction must mingle with our obedience, or all will be worthless. This was the fatal mistake of the Pharisees, and this was the reason of the anger of the Lord against them. The deepest humility, combined with the most absolute reliance upon the atoning merits of the Saviour, are among the first requisites of the regenerate life. This thought alone will preserve to the greatest saint that indispensable grace of humility which is the salt that prevents his religious profession from corruption. This alone will maintain those relations with the Author of our salvation which are necessary to keep His life present within us. If we are numbered among God s saints, if we are raised to high places in Israel, if we are the means of salvation to others, it is all due to the scarlet cord in the window.

2. A second lesson taught by this part of the narrative is that salvation works results in those who are saved.

I. RAHAB'S FAITH WAS THE CAUSE OF THE SALVATION OF OTHERS. Had she not believed in God, her relatives would have shared the fate of Jericho. So in all other cases. Faith is an expansive principle. It is not content with doing good to its possessor; it stirs him up to benefit others. Jesus sent forth those who believed in Him to "preach the gospel to every creature." And all faithful Christians are their successors. They must needs "show forth the praises of him who called them out of darkness into his own marvellous light." They must strive to benefit others

(a) by trying to proclaim the gospel to the heathen abroad, or the worse than heathen at home;

(b) by intercessory prayer for all good works; and

(c) by active works of love to all who are in any way within their reach.

II. RAHAB, ONCE SAVED, WAS EXALTED TO GREAT HONOUR. She became a "mother in Israel," and espoused one of its princes. She attained in ages far remote the immortal honour of being mentioned as one of the progenitors of the King of kings. Thus we learn

(a) that the "cup of cold water" does not lose its reward. Every kind action done for the love of God and Christ shall be repaid a thousandfold. We are also taught

(b) that no amount of previous sin shall be weighed in the balance against us when we have truly repented. Rahab's sin was thought no more of when she was saved from the slaughter of Jericho. And so God's forgiveness is full and free, through Christ, when its condition, true repentance, is attained. Though He may see fit to leave us to the discipline of the natural consequences of our sin awhile, it is for our good. He does not cast our past sins in our teeth when we have returned to Him. lie will not listen to our request to be as the least and lowest of His hired servants. He puts the best robe upon us, and rings on our fingers, in token of His joy at our return. When our heart is once more whole with Him, we are as truly His dear children as if we had never left Him, and may sun ourselves as fearlessly as they in the light of His mercy. Lastly

(c), though we may not exactly go so far as to say "the greater the sinner, the greater the saint," we may at least say that there is no reason why a great, sinner may not become a great saint. We ought not to be deterred by our past sins, grievous and (but for God's mercy) unpardonable as they are, from pressing forward to the utmost heights of holiness that are within our reach. We are taught to forget those things that are behind, and reach forth unto the things that are before. The records of God's Church are full of such histories. From Mary Magdalene, and after her St. Augustine, to our own day the examples of men steeped to the lips in sin, who have repented and advanced to great heights of holiness, are before us to teach the sinner not to despair, but to trust in His loving kindness who hath raised "the poor out of the mire, that he may set him with the princes, even with the princes of his people."

3. The third lesson this narrative contains is the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Jericho was a sinful city, and therefore it was a devoted city. God had plainly stated (Deuteronomy 9:5) that the Israelites were the ministers of His vengeance against sin; that for no virtue of their own, but for the appalling crimes which had called down vengeance from on high upon the Phoenician nations, they had been selected to drive them out. Many interesting questions arise here, some regarding the idea of God, some regarding the true nature of sin, indicated to us in this passage.

I. IS GOD UNRIGHTEOUS THAT TAKETH VENGEANCE? As this question is fully discussed in the Introduction to this Book, a few hints will be all that is necessary here. We may observe

(a) that whatever difficulties attach to the command given to Joshua. apply equally to every idea of God that we can form. He, the All wise and All good, has at least permitted these chastisements upon men for their sin. We might go further. We might say that lie has enjoined them. God has clearly made it a law of our humanity that nations wallowing in the indulgence of sensual passion, permitting themselves to enjoy unchecked the pleasures of injustice, oppression, rapine, cruelty, have in the end been punished by being made the victims of similar cruelty. The Almighty Disposer of events has allowed man again and again to inflict cruelties as severe upon other nations, for their sins, as Joshua did upon the Canaanites. Thus whatever objections (see Butler's 'Analogy' here) may be raised to the possibility of God giving such a commission to His servant as that narrated in this Book, apply with equal force to the facts of history. Either, therefore, there is no God at all, or He is not good, or He can, consistently with truth and justice, incite man to exercise His vengeance upon those who have sinned. We may further observe

(b) that physical suffering does not seem so terrible a thing in God's eyes as it does in ours. Famines, wars, pestilences, accidents, shipwrecks, with all their attendant horrors and miseries, have happened, and will still continue to happen. And God seems not to heed. But is it not because He sees the whole, while we see but a part of His doings? Were this the only world, we must come to the conclusion that God is not goodness, but cruelty; not justice, but the most gross and aggravated injustice. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." But granted flint there is another world, in which all that goes amiss here will be set right, and these difficulties disappear. The sorrows of this life will seem but a momentary pang as we live through the ages of eternity. And in that good land we shall smile at the doubts of God's perfections which have caused us such uneasiness here. Again

(c) we may note that history now shows that the Hittites were once a great and flourishing people. Yet until lately they had been so entirely forgotten that their very names were unknown. Why this complete obliteration, as it were, from the map of humanity? Why, but because they had sinned against the Lord, and He must destroy them? Israel was not the only instrument of His vengeance. Far to the northward of the Holy Land, where their empire flourished on the banks of the Orontes and in Asia Minor, He sent the Egyptians and Assyrians against them, till their name was blotted out from among the nations of the earth. And so will it be till time shall be no more. The nation which holds not God in remembrance shall be cut away from His hand.

II. TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING. This lesson will be yet farther enforced in the next chapter. Yet here we may note that the Christian is to have no dealings whatever with ungodliness and its treasures. The good things of this life, save as things to be used for God, are to be steadfastly renounced. The desire of possessing them is not to be a motive for action. They who serve God for filthy lucre's sake are unsparingly condemned under the gospel. It is, of course, a difficult task to decide how far innocent pleasures may be enjoyed, or rewards, honours, wealth, accepted, when God seems to have put them in our way. All the cities were not devoted to God, but Jericho only. Yet it may safely be said that in these days of a widely diffused profession of Christianity, the verdict of Christian society on these points is too lenient a one. The love of money and of the good things of this life is too free]y admitted as a motive for action. The deliberate preference of a life of poverty and self-denial is too often looked down upon with disdain, though it is recommended to us by the example of Christ. Nay, it may even be doubted how far St. Paul's rule of excommunication of the covetous man (1 Corinthians 5:11) is carried out by the Christian Church, even when money has been made or honours attained by unfair means. The man who, as director of a public company, gives his sanction, by carelessness or weakness, to acts which, as a private individual, he would not have committed—the man who by bribery obtains a position among the law makers of this great empire—the man who amasses a vast fortune by indirect means—is he courted or condemned by the collective Christian conscience in these days? It may be doubted whether, among all the advances we have unquestionably made of late in Christian principle, the spirit of Achan, rather than Joshua, does not predominate among us still.

III. WHAT GOD HAS PROMISED WILL SURELY COME TO PASS. The ungodly often cry, "Tush, God hath forgotten; he hideth his face and he will never see it." But it comes to pass just the same. The wicked Hiel laughed Joshua's prophecy to scorn. Yet it came true. And so do many thoughtless persons now laugh to scorn the declarations of God's Word. They ridicule the idea of chastisement for national sins; they will not hear of days of humiliation for national misfortunes; they tell us all things are ordered by invariable law. But God punished nations of old for their sins, and He does so still. Nor does He act otherwise with individuals. He has declared that sin brings punishment in its train; but men sin wantonly, and hope to escape its necessary consequences. But either in this world or the next these consequences arrive. What God has said will surely come to pass. And then man wishes in vain that he had never offended Him. As in Hiel's ease, so now, God fulfils to the very letter the predictions He has uttered. Let us be wise in time, and so avoid the misfortunes which a presumptuous contempt of God's Word is sure to bring on us.


Joshua 6:22-24

A city of destruction.

If any city ever was such a "City of Destruction" as Bunyan fancied, it was Jericho. Itself and all within it were devoted to destruction, only Rahab, like another Noah, with her family escaping. It is an awful fact to contemplate the destruction of a whole city. No escape, and little warning! Old and young, one day in possession of wealth, ease, comfort, and the next day captured and destroyed. The judicial principles on which God acts and on which He here commands the destruction of Jericho, are beyond us, but some of the lessons are clear and useful. Study these:

I. THERE IS A PENALTY FOR SIN. There is nothing wanton in God's ways. Israel was God's chosen, and the nations of Canaan His rejected, because morally the former, with all its faults, infinitely surpassed the latter. You get glimpses of the evil of the primitive races with their religious in the story of Baal-Peor; in the vice and atrocity which perpetually mark every relapse of Israel into idolatry; in the nameless defilements of modern heathenism. Dr. Arnold, no narrow theologian, defends the destruction of the Canaanites as a great gain to the welfare of humanity. It is these cruelties and abominations of heathenism which required and explain the destruction of the Canaanites. For God punishes sin. There is no truth more undeniable, and none the knowledge of which is more widely spread. We suffer for every fault we commit. As root and fruit, so wrong and wretchedness, go together. However subtle the fault, God's providence operates in penalties still more subtle. The eating of any forbidden fruit always has its two penalties—loss of power, and loss of some sort of Eden. Sins of sinners have their penalties. And God's people receive "double for all their sins"—a heavier stroke for the less excusable transgression. It is not because God is wrathful that He punishes, but because He is gracious. God is love, and therefore will not let us harm ourselves or others. His infinite love impels Him to "stamp out" evil by penalty. It is blasphemy to think God can sit still and see, with indifferent eye, the poison of sin working its mischief in the world. For love is neither in God nor man a merely sentimental thing. It is wise, it is strong, it is stern. "Love is inexorable," says one of our greatest teachers (George Macdonald). So God's love makes Him "a consuming fire." He pardons sin, when His grace working penitence has got it out of us, but punishes it until we deplore and loathe it. The creed of Jericho was probably a very free and easy one. But as God's facts do not accommodate themselves to our creeds, it is better to adjust our creed to God's facts. Your sins will not pass unpunished. Blessed be God's name, He loves us too well for that. There will be an element of correction in all penalty, until correction becomes impossible; and then, in mercy at once to ourselves and others, God steps in to prevent the further accumulation of guilt by us, and the further infliction of mischief on others. The city of sin is a city of destruction, and your sin will receive the penalty due to it, however secure you may feel in yore' power to evade it.

II. PENALTY IS OFTEN LONG DEFERRED, AND IS THEN SUDDENLY INFLICTED. Jericho had, I suppose, stood long. The destruction of the cities of the plain had not extended to it. It is possible that, alike from the calamities of war as well as those of nature it had been free. And its prosperity and wealth, its abounding trade with East and West, suggested that there was really no reason to be afraid of God's judgments. Yet suddenly, like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky, destruction fell on them. There is often delay in inflicting a punishment. God prolongs opportunity. "This year also" He spares the barren fig tree, reluctant to destroy what might produce fruit. He is not willing that any should perish, lie is "slow to anger." His long suffering is salvation. He lengthens "the days of tranquillity" that we may at last repent. But when all delay is abused, and the postponement of doom only awakes presumption, at last the stroke comes," suddenly and without remedy." The flood came suddenly, and so did the destruction of Sodom, so did that of Jezebel and Nabal, and Belshazzar, and Herod, and Judas, and that of multitudes that cannot be numbered. Do not mistake postponement of penalty for pardon of sin. Of all our unrepented sin that has not yet been smitten, the punishment is only suspended. We cannot dig so deep but God will find us, nor strengthen our defence so stoutly as to defy His power. Be wise and use the days of reprieve for repentance. "Seek the Lord while he may be found," as we are here taught there is a penalty for every sin, and that, long suspended, it yet at last falls suddenly. So observe also lastly—

III. THEY WHO WOULD AVOID DESTRUCTION MUST BECOME FOLLOWERS OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL. Only one woman with her relatives seems to have done this. We do not read of any persons fleeing from the city of doom, or making any provision for capitulation or escape. The enervation of luxury and immorality is on them. They alternately sink in despair or are puffed up in the confidence of their walls. But one person, rising in repentance from the guilt of a long neglect, sees the glory of God and chooses Him as her hope and Master. When she cannot save the city with her, she saves herself, and, expecting the wonderful works of God, enlists in His service. Repent thou, and take Jesus Christ as thy Lord, ending with serious change of thought and action all the evil of your life. And then the infinite love which weeps when it can only smite will pardon the sin that you forsake, and give you "a place amongst the children," and the great salvation which you long to enjoy.—G.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-6.html. 1897.
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