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There is no more unfortunate division of chapters in the Bible than occurs here. The conversation between the Captain and his lieutenant is cut in twain, and the revelation of the warrior in chap. v is without any perceptible result. But the new chapter should commence at Joshua 5:13, and the first verse of chap. vi should be in a parenthesis. Then it will clearly appear that the revelation of the Captain of the Lord’s host is an introduction to the history of the conquest of Jericho.
1. Now Jericho was straitly shut up Heb, shutting (the gates) and firmly shut up. The active participle may describe the act of the people within, and the passive that of the besiegers without. Or the sense may be: Jericho closed her gates, and fastened them up with bolts and bars. Both expressions also indicate the continuance of this condition, which is further explained by the words
None went out, and none came in The city was effectually blockaded. On Jericho see note at Joshua 2:1.
LORD, (that is, Jehovah,) and hence, too, Joshua was required to put off his shoes, (Joshua 6:15,) for, like Moses at the bush, (Exodus 3:5,) he was standing on ground made holy by the presence of the Holy One. This same angel was “entertained unawares” by Abraham in the plains of Mamre, (Genesis 18:0,) just after that patriarch had circumcised his son Ishmael; but before he left him he proved to be his covenant God, Jehovah.
It was very meet that this great Prince should now confer with his lieutenant, and give directions for the conquest of the first great city of Canaan which offered resistance to the Hebrew army.]
And did worship This act of low obeisance, or of bodily prostration, is commonly practiced in the East to superiors, and does not necessarily involve the rendering of divine honours. Joshua thought that some distinguished military chieftain had appeared on the theater of war. The fact that the stranger received worship from Joshua without reproof (Revelation 22:9) indicates that he was a superior being. How incompatible is this whole account with the rationalistic exegesis which makes the appearance of the Angel only an inward vision or trance! Joshua sees the warrior at a distance, approaches and addresses him, and receives a reply. Such a description could not have been rationally given of an internal vision.
THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD’S HOST REVEALED, Joshua 5:13 to Joshua 6:5.
[The chosen people have now by circumcision renewed their covenant with Jehovah; they have eaten the passover within the limits of the Land of Promise; they have tasted the new corn of the land. The time now approaches for them to proceed to the work of conquest, and the angel of Jehovah appears to Joshua, and reveals the divine plan for the destruction of Jericho.] 13. When Joshua was by Jericho He was apparently making a personal and private reconnaissance of the city, which was the key to the whole land of Canaan. See note on Joshua 2:1.
A man over against him The subsequent account shows that he was a man only in form.
With his sword drawn The sword is a symbol of high executive power. The drawn sword intimates that that power is to be immediately exercised. Hence Joshua’s anxiety to know in whose behalf the mysterious stranger has drawn his sword.
Joshua went unto him Here is a remarkable display of courage on the part of Joshua. Good men, because of their faith in God, confront danger without fear.
Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? The idea of neutrality in the contest does not occur to Joshua as a possibility. In God’s battles there can be no neutrals. “He that is not with me is against me.”
2. The Lord said The Hebrew word for Lord is Jehovah. The identity of Jehovah with the Captain of the host of the Lord is too plain to be disputed by any sound biblical scholar. See Joshua 5:14, note.
I have given The past tense here strongly expresses the certainty of the future event. In the divine mind the act is already accomplished.
Mighty men of valour Heroes of might. An appositive of Jericho and its king. Their warlike character is here attested by Jehovah.
3. Ye shall compass the city Here is a peculiar and unprecedented mode of reducing a walled town to carry a small chest containing, not the enginery of death, but a few religious relics, attended by a band of priests blowing on their trumpets, and followed by the whole army marching in procession. We may not assign with certainty the reason of this strange command, but we plainly see at least four objects attained: (1) The whole army is honoured as a subordinate agent in the conquest of the city. (2) God, the efficient cause, is magnified before all men. (3) His ark and his ministers, by their prominence at the head of the procession, are especially honoured in the eyes of Israelite and Canaanite. (4) A course of proceeding so unmilitary and apparently absurd was a severe test of the faith of the Israelites in Jehovah.
4. Seven trumpets of rams’ horns [Or, seven trumpets of alarms; that is, signal trumpets. The Hebrew word here rendered rams’ horns is יובל , yobel, and Furst still adheres to this explanation, which is also that of the Targum and the Rabbins. But according to Gesenius yobel is an onomatopoetic word, signifying a joyful sound, ( jubilum,) and hence some scholars hold that the trumpet of yobel was so called because it was used to proclaim through the land the return of the year of jubilee. Leviticus 25:9-13. But long before the sabbatical year was instituted the trumpet that sounded from Sinai was called the yobel, (Exodus 19:13,) and hence it is but natural to infer that the year of jubilee took its name from the trumpet, not the trumpet from the year. The best supported etymology of yobel is that which gives it the sense of a loud and startling sound, and hence we adopt the rendering signal trumpet. In Joshua 6:5 occurs the expression horn of yobel, so that the words trumpet ( shophar) and horn ( keren) are here used interchangeably. The common opinion is that the shophar was a long straight instrument, and the keren a crooked one.] Eustathius says that an instrument in the form of a bent trumpet was in use among the Egyptians for the purpose of calling the people together to the sacrifices. It is not quite certain whether the trumpet of jubilee was made of the horn of an ox or of metal; but the latter seems the more probable, since a much larger instrument could be made of metal. The priests on this occasion carried “sonorous metal, blowing martial sounds.” “The seven days” procession, the sevenfold repetition of it on the seventh day by seven priests, and the use of seven trumpets, are unmistakable proofs of the importance of the number seven.” Keil. This may be best explained by observing that the word for seven is radically the same as the word for oath. Seven, then, was a sacred number, the seal of the covenant. “By this march of seven days, and the sevenfold repetition on the seventh day, with the seven priests blowing the seven trumpets, the host of Israel were to show that they were the people of the covenant.” [
The seventh day These seven days of marching must have included one Sabbath, and perhaps, as the Rabbins have assumed, the last day of the seven, on which the city fell, was itself the Sabbath. But this solemn marching and carrying of the ark about the doomed city was no ordinary work, such as that contemplated in the prohibition in the fourth commandment. It was rather a service of obedience to a special Divine mandate, and the grand triumph given on the seventh day was, even in that age, a sublime indication that “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”]
Seven times We have no means of knowing the circumference of Jericho, but allowing that it was five miles, a not unreasonable estimate, the seven marches around it would be thirty-five miles, a distance not exceedingly difficult for a host all aglow with intense enthusiasm, and disciplined to the route by having travelled it for six preceding days. Then, too, they began their travel early in the morning. Joshua 6:15.
5. All the people shall shout This was to take place during the seventh circuit, at a concerted signal. Previous to that signal they were prohibited from uttering a word; the twelve circumambulations were to be in perfect silence, save the sound of the trumpets.
The wall of the city shall fall down flat Hebrews, shall fall under itself, that is, to its very foundations. The portion of the wall which constituted the rear wall of Rahab’s house must have been spared. See Joshua 6:22.
Ascend up every man straight before him The moving column of men was so long that it completely encircled the city. When the wall fell there was a wall of soldiers surrounding it on every side. The command is that this living wall contract by each man’s marching over the ruins towards the centre of the city. Escape would be impossible.
THE CONQUEST OF JERICHO, Joshua 6:6-21.
6. And Joshua… called the priests The promptness of his unquestioning obedience to a command so unexpected, and so little in accordance with human reason, attests Joshua’s unfaltering faith in his great Captain, with whom he had just been in counsel. It is the province of reason to ask who speaks; but when reason acknowledges it is the voice of God, it is her highest function not to sit in judgment upon the message, but to obey.
7. And he said Such in the Hebrew is the marginal reading, while the text is plural, and they said; that is, the subordinate officers, to whom Joshua made known the divine plan of the conquest. See chap. Joshua 1:10, note.
Him that is armed Literally, the armed one. The reference is collectively to the armed host of forty thousand from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Eastern Manasseh. These, according to chap. Joshua 4:13, marched before the ark of the Lord.
9. The rearward Margin, the gathering host; that part of the army which occupies the last place on the march, protecting the front columns, and gathering up the faint and sick. The tribe of Dan had this position in the wilderness. Numbers 10:25. Had the ark been at the head of the column, its usual place, it would have been more exposed to capture by a sudden sally of the enemy.
10. Neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth The injunction of silence was necessary that they might distinctly hear the signal for the shout in concert. Moreover, the very silence of a vast army marching in stillness around the city would either lull the inhabitants into a feeling of security, or fill their minds with fearful forebodings of approaching doom.
14. Six days Is there any parallelism between the seven trumpets and downfall of Jericho, and the apocalyptic seven trumpets and overthrow, by Messianic power, of the Mystical Babylon? This, in our view, was the apocalypse of the overthrow of, not the Antichrist, but the anti-Jehovism of Canaan. It is performed at Jericho, the first great Canaanite city taken. And that is utterly destroyed, as token of what was by divine justice due to all the rest.
15. About the dawning of the day Here not only Joshua rises early, as in Joshua 6:12, but also the whole army, because a great day’s work was before them. It is not to be supposed that the entire camp, several millions in number, marched together in this service, but it is probable that the entire military force was engaged.
16. Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city They were to praise the Lord for what he was about to do. Up to this moment it is probable that the soldiers knew nothing of the mode by which the city was to be taken, yet they obeyed with alacrity orders which must have been totally dark with mystery. Verily this is worthy of enrolment among the signal victories of faith. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.” Hebrews 11:30.
17. The city shall be accursed The city, with all its immense wealth, was now put under the ban, and devoted to destruction. To many of the besieging host this was the severest test of their faith and obedience. In oriental usage when a city is stormed the maxim is “To the victors belong the spoils.” As symbol of the utter destruction which the Canaanite race had deserved, this first great representative city is made an example of just doom. For the doom of first things, see note on Acts 5:1-11. The anathema was the devotion of any person or thing to God as irredeemable property; the person or animal was to be killed, and the inanimate thing was either completely destroyed, or set apart forever for the purposes of the sanctuary. The exact idea of the anathema, in the words of Hengstenberg, “is the forced dedication to God of those who have obstinately refused to dedicate themselves to him of their own accord, and the manifestation of his glory in the destruction of those who would not, while they lived, serve as a mirror to reflect it, and thus answer the purpose for which the world was created, and for which especially man was formed.” Compare Leviticus 27:28: note. In the last day all the wicked of the earth shall fall beneath the anathema of the Judge. Only Rahab and her kindred were exempt from the curse, for the oath of the spies had now become the oath of their entire nation.
18. Lest ye make yourselves accursed Hebrew, lest ye both devote and appropriate the accursed thing. The two acts could not be harmonized. It would be sacrilege to dedicate the whole to Jehovah and then to take possession of a part for their own use.
And make the camp of Israel a curse God will not be defrauded. If any one of the camp takes for personal use any thing dedicated to Himself, He will devote the camp to Himself, that is, to destruction.
And trouble it By bringing distress, and humiliating defeat in battle.
19. But all the silver, and gold Because the precious metals and vessels of brass and iron were regarded as indestructible by fire, and were needed in the service of the tabernacle, they were put into the treasury of the tabernacle.
Consecrated unto the Lord Literally this and the following sentence read: Holiness is it to Jehovah, a treasure of Jehovah shall it go. In Numbers 31:21-23, the method is prescribed of purifying metals by fire in order to consecrate them to the service of God.
20. So the people shouted The trumpets gave the signal and then the people shouted. The trumpets had been silent during the speech of Joshua, (Joshua 6:17-19,) then came the signal, and the war-cry, and the downfall. How vain the attempt of some to strip this event of the miraculous by ascribing it to an earthquake! How came Joshua to know that an earthquake would occur at that particular juncture? Such knowledge would be a greater miracle. Equally untenable is the theory that the walls had been extensively mined by a people brought up in the desert, in utter ignorance of that method of conducting war. How absurd to imagine that even the most skilful engineer could so undermine a wall that it would stand till a shout should topple it down! Verily, sceptics are the most credulous people in the world. This miracle put into the hand of Joshua the key to Canaan, the strongest city in the land. With no experience in the art of besieging and storming cities, they could not immediately, without the divine aid, have reduced this stronghold. It also gave both Israel and Canaan overwhelming proof of the omnipotence of Jehovah and of his alliance with Joshua.
21. They utterly destroyed all that was in the city The Israelites in this indiscriminate massacre were simply obeying a plain command of God, (Deuteronomy 20:16-17,) and hence the charge of cruelty, if any, must be brought not against Israel, but God. And there have not been wanting men to urge the question, On what principles can the righteousness of God in this case be vindicated? A sufficient answer is furnished in the following considerations, condensed from Dr. Paley’s sermon in justification of God’s dealings with the Canaanites: (1.) They were destroyed for their excessive, wilful, habitual, and incurable wickedness. Leviticus 18:24-30. Their “abominable customs ” show that the grossest vices had become inherent, in their national character, and constituted even a part of their religion, for they were “done unto their gods.” Because of these heinous sins, and not to make way for the Israelites, they were cut off. (2.) God’s treatment of these crimes was impartial. The Jews, the chosen and favoured people, are told that for like sins the land shall “vomit you out also.” “As the nations which the Lord destroyed before your face, so shall ye perish.” (3.) God suffered long with the Canaanites. In the days of Abraham, four generations before, it was said, “The iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full;” (Genesis 15:16;) for this reason that patriarch was not put in possession of their country. They had not profited by the pure example of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor had they taken warning from the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. (4.) If the destruction be just, the manner is of little importance, whether by earthquake, pestilence, or famine, which spare neither age nor sex, or by the hand of their enemies. In all national punishments the innocent are of necessity confounded with the guilty. The Israelites were God’s sheriffs, charged with the duty of inflicting capital punishment upon an incorrigible nation. Without the command from God they would have sinned in this act, the same as a man would sin who should kill a fellow man from motives of private resentment, and not by a warrant from the chief magistrate. (5.) There was a peculiar fitness in the destruction of the Canaanites by the agency of Joshua. The people of those ages were affected by no proof of the power of their gods so deeply as by their giving them victory in war. All the neighbouring nations, for whose admonition this dreadful example was intended, were hereby convinced not only of the supreme power of the God of Israel, but also of his utter abhorrence of the abominations for which the Canaanites were destroyed. (6.) Vices of all kinds, especially licentiousness, are astonishingly infectious. If any of these idolatrous tribes were spared they would taint the Hebrews. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. Hence, “Thou shall utterly destroy them, that they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods.” Deuteronomy 20:17-18. Moreover, this growing corruption might have polluted the whole ancient world if it had not received this signal and public demonstration of God’s indignation.
THE SALVATION OF RAHAB, Joshua 6:22-25.
22. Joshua had said The indefinite past tense of the original is here very properly rendered by our pluperfect, had said. See Joshua 6:17, where these instructions are given.
23. And her brethren This term must be understood to include the sisters spoken of in Joshua 2:13.
All that she had This expression seems most naturally to include goods, and not kindred only. The neuter gender in the Septuagint and Vulgate supports this interpretation, and why should we deny that they were permitted to save all their portable possessions? We suppose that the spies had with them a large company of assistants, to carry her household furniture to the camp. It was honourable on the part of Joshua that she should suffer no loss, and that her faith should be profitable for the life that now is.
All her kindred Hebrews, all her families; that is, all who were related to Rahab, and also their families. God honours the family institution which he has ordained. He saves by families not only in the Old Dispensation, as in this case, and Noah, and many others, but also in the New, as in the case of whole households admitted to baptism.
Left them without the camp They were not prepared ceremonially to dwell among the Hebrews. It was not lawful for uncircumcised men, nor for females who had not publicly espoused the Jewish faith, to enter the camp, which was regarded as sacred because of the ark. This separation for a season would induce them to lay aside all their pagan habits, which an immediate reception might have confirmed.
25. She dwelleth in Israel even unto this day This account must have been written during the lifetime of Rahab, when many were living who could have disputed the miracles if they had not occurred. Those who assert that this book was written several centuries later are driven to such an arbitrary interpretation as that her descendants continued to dwell in Israel unto this day.
[Rahab was the first Canaanite convert to the Hebrew faith, and is, accordingly, highly honoured in Hebrew history and Jewish tradition. She was married to Salmon, whom a romantic imagination has very plausibly identified with one of the two spies whose lives she saved at Jericho. She became an honoured mother in Israel, from whom sprang David and his Messianic son. Matthew 1:5. The prominence given by Matthew to the adoption of Gentile women, like Rahab and Ruth, into the Messiah’s genealogy, is a prophetic indication of the Gospel catholicity, in which Jew and Gentile, bond and free, are seen to be one in Christ.]
JOSHUA’S ADJURATION AND FAME, Joshua 6:26-27.
26. And Joshua adjured them Bound them with an oath; caused them to swear. This solemn charge, attended with all the solemnity of an adjuration, was designed to prevent Israel and his posterity from erecting again the walls which had been thrown down by the power of Jehovah. Joshua would have these prostrate defences of the wicked city a perpetual and impressive memorial of punished sin, and of the power and justice of Jehovah. We do not understand that the oath bound the Hebrews not to erect houses, but simply the walls and gates: for we find, in Judges 3:13, the city of palms the usual appellation of Jericho spoken of as inhabited. Also, that in 2 Samuel 10:5, David orders his outraged embassy to “tarry in Jericho until their beards be grown.”
Cursed be the man before the Lord That is, Jehovah beholding and being judge. The curse is pronounced by divine sanction, and will fall at his command upon the daring man who shall attempt to restore these fallen walls, and thereby destroy their monumental significance.
In his firstborn That is, at the expense of his life. The meaning, evidently, of this strong poetic expression is, that the builder of the walls would suffer the loss of all his offspring, from the oldest to the youngest. [The words of the curse are in the form of poetic parallelisms, and may be rendered thus:
Cursed be the man before Jehovah,
Who rises up and builds this city of Jericho.
In his firstborn shall he lay its foundation,
And in his younger son shall he set up its gates.
Possibly this rhythmical passage, like that cited in Joshua 10:13, was taken from the book of Jasher.] For a striking fulfilment of this prophetic curse, see 1 Kings 16:34, where we find that Hiel accomplished this work, and suffered the penalty predicted five hundred and fifty years before.
27. So the Lord was with Joshua The promise made to Joshua in chap. 1 is fulfilled.
His fame was noised True fame has been styled the shadow of greatness. He who demonstrates that God is with him cannot dwell in obscurity.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30