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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Joshua 6

 

 

Verses 1-27

SECTION SECOND

The Contests of Israel with the Canaanites

Joshua 6-11

A. Contests against particular cities

Joshua 6-8

______________

1. The Capture of Jericho

Joshua 6

a. Preparation for the Capture

Joshua 6:1-14

1Now Jericho was straitly shut up [lit. had shut up (her gates) and was shut up], because of the children [sons] of Israel: none went out, and none came in 2 And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and [omit: and] the mighty men of valour [strong heroes]. 3And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once: thus shalt thou do six days 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns [seven alarm-trumpets[FN1]]: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn [alarm-horn], and [omit: and] when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout: and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

6And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns7[alarm-trumpets] before the ark of the Lord [Jehovah]. And he [they[FN2]] said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed[FN3] pass on before the ark of the Lord [Jehovah].

8And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns [alarm-trumpets] passed on before the Lord [Jehovah], and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord [Jehovah] followed them 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rere-ward came [went] after the ark, the priests [omit: the priests] going on, and blowing with the trumpets.[FN4]

10And Joshua had [omit: had] commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice [let your voice be heard], neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout, then shall ye shout 11 So [And] the ark of the Lord [Jehovah] compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.

12And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the 13 Lord [Jehovah]. And [the] seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns [alarm-trumpets] before the ark of the Lord [Jehovah] went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men [as in Joshua 6:9] went before them; but the rere-ward came [went] after the ark of the Lord [Jehovah], the priests [omit: the priests] going on, and blowing with the trumpets [as in Joshua 6:9]. 14And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did six days.

b. Capture and Destruction of Jericho

Joshua 6:15-27

15And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same [this] manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord [Jehovah] hath given you the city 17 And the city shall be accursed [devoted], even [omit: even] it, and all that are therein, to the Lord [Jehovah]: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing [from that which is devoted], lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing [that which is devoted], and make the camp of Israel a 19 curse [devoted thing], and trouble it.[FN5] But [And] all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord [Jehovah]: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord [Jehovah]. 20So the people shouted when the priests blew[FN6] with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city 21 And they utterly destroyed [devoted] all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

22But Joshua had [omit: had] said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred [Heb. families, and so Bunsen], and left them without the camp of Israel 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord [Jehovah]. 25And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in [in the midst of] Israel even [omit: even] unto this day; because she hid the messengers which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

26And Joshua adjured them [caused them to swear] at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the Lord [Jehovah], that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it 27 So the Lord [Jehovah] was with Joshua; and his fame was noised [omit: noised] throughout all the country [in all the land.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

With this sixth chapter begins the second section of the first part of our book, giving us in a continuous narrative the history of the conquest of the land. It offers critical difficulties in only a few passages ( Joshua 8:12-13 compared with Joshua 8:3 and Joshua 8:30-35), so that even Knobel describes it as “an exhibition, in the main regular and consistent, of the wars of Joshua,” by the hand of the Jehovist. In so far it is advantageously distinguished from the report of the passage through the Jordan (chaps3, 4) The style is excellent, and rises often ( Joshua 7:8; Joshua 10:1-27) to a strikingly beautiful representation of deeds of war wrought by God through Joshua and the people of Israel; comp. Introd. § 1, p3. Poetical passages are twice (chaps. Joshua 6:26 and Joshua 10:12-15) introduced. A certain delicate humor is betrayed in Joshua 9. From Joshua 10:28 to Joshua 11:23, the traits just noticed are absent, and a sort of monotony in the chronological enumeration of conquests appears. Chapter 12 is a very valuable historical document, from Joshua 6:9 onward in particular, to which Bunsen has rightly called attention.

So much in general concerning this extremely interesting section, chaps. Joshua 6:1 to Joshua 11:23. We proceed now to the explanation of Joshua 6, which relates the capture of Jericho.

[On the connection between this and the preceding chapter, see the translator’s remarks on p66.]

a. Joshua 6:1-11. Preparation for it. Jericho had, at the approach of the Israelites, closed its doors so that no one went out and no one came in. Jehovah now commands Joshua to march around the city with the ark preceded by priests giving blasts on alarm trumpets, once each day for six days in succession, but on the seventh day seven times, and promises that then her walls shall fall down. This command Joshua imparts to the priests with the people, for immediate execution, ( Joshua 6:6-7), which then also follows ( Joshua 6:8-11).

Joshua 6:2. See, I have given We find a similar expression in Joshua 11:6. Here, however, the Israelites themselves were to adopt no warlike measures for the taking of the city. Jericho must fall rather through the immediate help of God, that Isaiah, through a miracle.

Joshua 6:3-5. Signal trumpets.קֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל = הַיּוֹבְלִים שׁוֹפְרוֹת. That these two designations ( Joshua 6:4-5) signify the same musical instrument is clear, and may be inferred directly from our passage. It may be also further assumed as probable that שׁוֹפָר and חֲצצְרָה ( Numbers 10:2; Numbers 10:8) are not identical, but שׁ׳, rather a crooked instrument, and hence called קרן, and ח׳, the straight trumpet frequently represented on Egyptian monuments (Keil, Com. on J, p158). The interpretation of יוֹבֵל on the other hand occasions difficulty. According to Fürst it has two significations: “(1) Ram, Aries, from the unusual, intrans. יבל, to be compressed, hard, strong, according to this קרן הי׳,שׁופר חי׳ or even יובל alone, Exodus 19:13, would mean ram’s horns as a wind instrument. This signification appears already in the Targum (דּוּכְרָא) and the Jewish expositors, who follow indeed the tradition (Rosh-ha-Shana 3); and from the latter we learn that in old Arabic the word had the same sense; Phœnic. יֹבֵל the same (Mass7); (2) (from יָבַל II) Sound of Jubilee, sound of joy (related to the pr. nom. יוּבַל) as a designation of the great feast of Jubilee on the tenth of the seventh month in each fiftieth year, which was proclaimed with trumpets through the whole land. Leviticus 25:8.” That the same word should have these two radically different significations Isaiah, if not exactly impossible, yet in this case improbable, since the year of jubilee (שׁנה היובל) was announced, as Fürst himself says, by the שׁוֹפַר הִיּוֹבֵל, and from this evidently had its name, as Winer (Realw. s. v. “Jubeljahr”), Oehler (Realencyk. x. p131) take for granted, after the example of older interpreters, especially Groddeck, De verisim. voc.יובלsignif, Danz1758. On this supposition the question arises, whence the derivation of יובל, and how it is to be explained. Either it is from a root יָבַל not in use, which, as Fürst assumes, should mean to be compressed, hard, strong, the same as the Phœn. יָבַל, from which then יֹבֵל or יוֹבֵל = the strong, the ram (as also אַיִל means properly strength): this is supported by reference to the inscription of Marseilles, l7. In this view, קֶרֶן־הַיּוֹבֵל would be rams-horn, שׁוֹפַר־הַיּוֹבֵל rams-horn-trumpet, and שְׁנַת־הַיּוֹבֵל the year at the beginning of which they blew the rams-horn, and which received its name from this. Or, as Gesenius (Thes. ii561) teaches, from an onomatop. יָבַל, to sound out, to shout, Lat. jubilare, as the related יִבֵּב, Judges 5:28, signifies to call, to call aloud, and in Aram. is employed expressly of the call of jubilee. Thus יוֹבֵל would be = תְּרוּעָה, and שׁוֹפַר־תְּרוּעָה = שׁוֹפַר־הַיּוֹבֵל ( Leviticus 25:8) = alarm-signal or jubilee-trumpet. The קֶרֶן־הַיּוֹבֵל would mean the same, and שְׁנַת־הַיּוֹבֵל would be the year at whose commencement the alarm-horn or trump of jubilee was sounded, and which hence derived its name. This etymology is decisively favored by the name, יוּבָל, of the son of Lamech, Genesis 4:21, who was the inventor of the harp and syrinx. We must therefore adopt this explanation. The double plural שׁוֹפִרוֹת־הַיּוֹבְלִים, as in Numbers 13:32, אַנְשֵׁי־מִדּוֹת, Deuteronomy 1:28, בְּנֵי־עֲנָקים. Ewald, § 270. [See Gesen. Lex. s. v. יוֹבֵל.]

The number seven of the trumpets, priests, days, is significant, for which compare Genesis 21:30, and a multitude of Old and New Test, passages in Winer, art. “Zahlen.” [Smith’s Dict. art. “Seven.”] The circuit marches were thirteen in all, six during the first six days, and seven on the last, which was probably, as the Rabbins have assumed, a Sabbath. It might be objected that, according to Exodus 20:9-11, no work was to be done on the Sabbath; but this circuit was no work, but rather a religious transaction of the nature of worship, performed in obedience to a special command of God, to whose glory the walls of Jericho fell precisely on the Sabbath. The object of these encompassing marches, about which much has been said, as been well indicated by Knobel, who says: “Jericho was to fall as the first-fruits of the Canaanitish cities manifestly by Israel’s God. The repeated compassing of the city directed attention with the sharpest intensity towards what was finally to come to pass, and when the event came, left no doubt that Jehovah was its cause, while the courage of Israel is thereby raised also, and the despondency of the Canaanites increased.”

In substantial agreement with this Keil remarks, that “The repetition during several days of this procession about the city could only be designed to exercise Israel in unconditional faith and patient trust in the power and assistance of God, and to impress deeply upon him that it was the omnipotence and fidelity of Jehovah alone which could give into his hand this fortified city, the bastion of the whole land.”

Joshua 6:5. Every man straight before him. Over the prostrate walls should the Israelites enter Jericho, and “each one straight forward,” so that their order should be preserved as far as possible. In Joel 2:9, it is said likewise of the locusts: “like men of war they climb a wall, and every one marches on his way.

Joshua 6:6-7. Joshua issues the needful commands.

Joshua 6:8-11. The first circuit, in which the order of procession was, (1.) the armed men; (2.) the seven priests with their seven trumpets; (3.) the priests with the ark of the covenant; (4.) the remaining warriors as a rear-guard. אִסֵּף = agmen claudere. This duty on the march through the wilderness devolved, according to Numbers 10:25, on the tribe of Dan; whether on this occasion also cannot be determined.

Joshua 6:9. That blew with the trumpets. Not according to the Kethib תּ‍‍‍ָ‍ֽקְעוּ, but the Keri תֹּקְעֵי which Knobel prefers as unquestionably the true reading. [Keil holds to the Kethib.]

Joshua 6:10. Ye shall not shout. That should be done first on the seventh day, at the express command of Joshua. Silently and without a voice, for six long days, under the prolonged clangor of the trumpets, the people marched around and around the City of Palms, whose inhabitants ventured no sortie. Perhaps they were imposed upon by the sublime silence which was maintained throughout this delay.

Joshua 6:11. At evening of the first day they came into the camp to spend the night.

Joshua 6:12-14. So they did for six days, without intermission.

b. Capture and Destruction of Jericho. Joshua 6:15-20. The seventh day. Now the Israelites begin their march very early, with the dawn, because they have to make the circuit seven times. If we suppose that Jericho had a compass of an hour’s journey, then a formal porcession like this, which moved slowly, would require at least one hour and a half to accomplish it. This would give for the seven circuits ten and a half hours. But to this we must add the absolutely necessary rests of at least a quarter of an hour each; and if we assume one after the first, second, and third circuits, and so on to the end, the six will amount to an hour and a half. This added to the ten and a half makes twelve hours. The fall of the wall, accordingly, must have taken place near evening. The Sabbath would then be about over and the work of destruction might begin.

Joshua 6:17. And the city shall be devoted.חֵרֶם (only once חֶרֶם, Zechariah 12:11) from חָרַם = to cut off, in the Hiph. to devote, to withdraw from common use and consecrate to God = sacrare, Isaiah, (a.) with active signification, the devotement of anything by Jehovah, his putting under the ban, the result of which is destruction, Malachi 3:24; Zechariah 14:11; 1 Kings 20:42; Isaiah 34:5; or (b.) with pass, signif. thing devoted, doomed, laid under the ban, that Isaiah, devoted to Jehovah without the possibility of being redeemed (in distinction from other devoted objects), Leviticus 27:21. In the latter sense it stands here, Joshua 6:17-18, and in Joshua 7:1 ff, 1 Samuel 15:3-9. Quite correctly therefore, Starke long ago remarked: “A devoted thing (Bann) (LXX. ἀνάθεμα, Numbers 21:2-3; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:17) was that which had been doomed to the Lord, which no man might employ for his own use, but which was either put away and destroyed utterly to the honor of God, as the men and beasts in this passage, a propitiation, as it were, to the divine justice, that this might be glorified; or it was consecrated to the special service of God, as here all precious and useful metals, Leviticus 27:21; Leviticus 27:28; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 7:26; Deuteronomy 13:15-17; Deuteronomy 20:26 ff.” See also the explanation to Joshua 2:11.

Rahab alone should be spared, because she had concealed the spies. The oath of the latter is mentioned only to them ( Joshua 6:22), but not before the people.

Joshua 6:18 contains a warning which Achan, to his own destruction and that of his family, neglected ( Joshua 7).

Joshua 6:20-21. Capture of the City. At Joshua’s command, the people who have before marched in silence around the city raise a battle shout. The trumpets clang. The walls of Jericho fall flat (prop, under themselves, תַּחְתֶּיהָ), the people of Israel pass in and devote everything that is in the city, man and woman, boy and gray-haired sire, cattle, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword ( Genesis 34:26, and very often in our book). [On לְ instrumenti, see Ges. Lex, p501 e. fin.]—The miracle here related has been explained by a sudden earthquake (J. D. Michaelis; Bartholm, Jewish History, ii. p22; Jahn, Bibl. Archœologie, ii. p 174 ff.). “But nothing of that stands written here” (Knobel). Nor is anything said of undermining the walls; manifestly a miracle was wrought, according to the entire view of the author, by the God of Israel “present upon the ark of the covenant.” See Doctrinal and Ethical2.

Joshua 6:22-25. Rescue of Rahab. This is effected in consistency with the promise, and oath of the spies.

Joshua 6:22. Go into the harlot’s house. This house appears not to have fallen, although it was built on [or against] the wall.

Young men. The Heb. נער has very often this signification, Genesis 22:3; Genesis 34:19; Genesis 37:2; Judges 8:20; Jeremiah 6:6; 1 Samuel 30:13; LXX. δύο νεανίσκοι; Vulg. juvenes.

Joshua 6:23. And left them without the camp. After the analogy of Leviticus 24:14, Numbers 31:19. They were, as heathen, unclean, and must therefore remain for a specified time, probably, as in the case of other things unclean, seven days, without the camp.

[That cattle and other property in Jericho were put under the ban, and the whole city reduced to ashes, was “because this was the first city of Canaan which Jehovah had given a prey to his people. It, therefore, should Israel offer as the first-fruits of the land to the Lord, and even consecrate to Him as devoted, for a sign that they received the whole land from his hand, as a loan and as what had fallen to Him, not what they would snatch for themselves.” Keil.—Tr.]

Joshua 6:25 takes up again the thread of the narrative concerning Rahab’s position.

She dwelt in Israel. See the Exegetical and Homiletical on chap2.

Joshua 6:26. Curse upon Jericho. Since a devoted city might not, according to Deuteronomy 14:17, be rebuilt, Joshua pronounces an imprecation on the foundation and soil of Jericho. Such a curse, as Strabo says, xiii. p601, Agamemnon uttered upon Ilium, and Scipio, according to Appian (Punica, § 135 f.), upon Carthage (Knobel). In connection with this they used, as Hadrian did at Jerusalem, to plough around the site of the city (Starke). “The Jews also probably scattered salt over the place, Judges 9:45, as a curse and sign of barrenness, Deuteronomy 29:22-23; Psalm 107:33-34; Jeremiah 17:6; Zechariah 2:9,” Starke. Of ploughing and sowing salt there is no mention here, but so much the more impressive sounds the curse which Joshua poetically utters. That this curse was fulfilled is related in 1 Kings 16:34, when Hiel of Bethel ventured in Ahab’s time to rebuild Jericho. It is at variance with this late restoration of the city that its name reappears in our book Joshua 18:21; Judges 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5. The difficulty may be obviated (a) by assuming, with Winer, that in 1 Kings 16:34 the language relates only to the fortifications of Jericho,—which reference of the word בָּנָה is established by 1 Kings 15:17 and 2 Chronicles 11:5—and that Joshua himself as military leader had respect only to the fortifications; or (b) by availing ourselves of the hypothesis of Knobel, that the Jericho spoken of during the time between Joshua and Ahab was in a different place from that which Hiel first rebuilt. In support of his view Knobel recalls that neither Troy nor Carthage was built up again on the old spot, because the ground of both places had been cursed. For the rest, Knobel conceives the execration in the special form which it had received, as wholly vaticinium ex eventu, and views the matter thus: (1) Joshua had expressed an imprecation, but a “general imprecation;” (2) This general imprecation was known, and had for its effect that when Jericho was rebuilt in the time between Joshua and David, it was not placed on the old site; (3) the rebuilding on the old site was effected under Ahab, by Hiel, who lost his oldest son at the time of laying the foundation of the wall, and his youngest at the setting up of the gate; (4) the author of our book knew of these occurrences, and assumed that Joshua had not only uttered a general malediction, but had extended this to so minute points as were afterwards brought to light. We confess that we here meet too many hypotheses, and therefore stand by the explanation of Winer which is grammatically well established.

Joshua 6:27. Joshua’s fame, שֹׁמַע, Joshua 9:9.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

In order to determine the notion of חֵרֶם, we must have regard above all to the passage Leviticus 27:28-29 : “Only no devoted thing (חֵרֶם) which a man shall devote (יַחֲרִם) to Jehovah of all that he hath, of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed (וְלֹא־יִגָּאֵל) every devoted thing is most holy to Jehovah. No devoted thing which is devoted by men shall be redeemed; it shall surely be put to death.” Everything else of Prayer of Manasseh, of beast, of house, of field which one only consecrated to Jehovah (יַקְדּישׁ) might be redeemed, but what any one had devoted, that Isaiah, given over to complete and unconditional sanctity, that could not be redeemed. It was, as Rüetschi says (Realencyk. i. p677), “a doomed gift” (Banngeschenk), an object laid under the ban (חֵרֶם in its first, active sense), a thing most holy to Jehovah. If it was a living creature, it was, according to this precept of the law, put to death; if it was a piece of land it was (as we may rightly conclude from Leviticus 27:21, comp. also Numbers 18:14; Ezekiel 44:29) the possession of the priests; if it was any other valuable property it belonged, as our history teaches ( Joshua 6:19; Joshua 6:24) and as is shown also by Numbers 31:54, to the treasury of Jehovah. If an entire city like Jericho was put under the ban, it was burnt up ( Joshua 6:24; Joshua 10:28; Joshua 10:35; Joshua 10:37; Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:11; Numbers 21:1-3; Deuteronomy 13:16); yet not always, Joshua 11:13, as they also sometimes let the cattle live, and divided them as booty ( Deuteronomy 2:34 f, Joshua 3:6 ff, and Joshua 8:26 ff.). Such a devotement might be, as Rüetschi has explained with special clearness, directed inwardly, on the people of Israel themselves, comp. Joshua 7, or outwardly against those of other nations. In both cases, however, as a long line of passages ( Exodus 22:20; Deuteronomy 13:16 ff; Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6; Joshua 6:17 ff, etc, see above) will show, the destruction of every unholy, idolatrous creature was the design, since Israel must be a holy people. The latter case, the outward direction of it, is met with earlier in the history, but with special frequency in our book. “Dreadful, certainly,” says Winer (i135, obs3), “was such devotement of conquered cities, only there is no good reason for complaining of Hebrew antiquity so bitterly as Tindal, Morgan, and others have done. Humanity toward prisoners of war, especially toward the inhabitants of conquered cities, was unknown to the ancient nations generally. Every war was at first a war of annihilation, and that treatment of the Canaanitish towns was, on political, and (in the sense of that age) religious grounds, as truly demanded, as is very much besides which even civilized and Christian nations hold valid, as flowing from the right of conquest.”

The destruction of these Canaanite cities followed upon an immediate, divine direction ( Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16; 1 Samuel 15:3), at another time, the Israelites vow the same ( Numbers 21:2). Again in other cases, the devotement, in its inward direction and in its outward, takes place in consequence of appointments of the law ( Leviticus 20:2; Deuteronomy 13:16 ff.). By this a limit was set to all caprice, for, the holiness of Israel in rigid separation from everything of a heathen nature, and from every abomination of idolatry ( Exodus 23:32; Deuteronomy 20:18), was to be the only ground of the ban. Otherwise every murderer might with hypocritical mien have appealed to such a devotement of his neighbor. He who seized upon anything for himself that had been devoted paid the penalty with his life ( Joshua 6:18; Deuteronomy 13:17; Joshua 7:11 ff.)

By these views we must interpret the expression of the high-priest ( John 11:49-50), and so also St. Paul’s designation ( Galatians 3:10) of the crucified Redeemer, as κατάρα.

Finally we may mention that similar statutes were in force among the Gauls and ancient Germans; and to the Romans and Greeks they were not at all strange. Cæsar relates of the Gauls (Bell. Gall. vi17): “Huic (sc. Marti) quum prœlio dimicare constituerunt, ea, quœ bello ceperint, plerumque devovent. Quœ superaverint, animalia capta immolant; reliquas res in unum locum conferunt. Multis in civitatibus harum rerum extructos tumulos locis consecratis conspicari licet; neque sœpe accidit, ut, neglecta quispiam religione, aut capta apud se occultare, aut posita tollere auderet; gravissimumque ei rei supplicium cum cruciatu constitutum est.” The practice therefore was similar to what happened in the case of Achan, the penalty of death for theft of what had been devoted, Tacitus (Annal. xiii57) tells concerning the Hermunduri, that a war in which they had been engaged with the Catti had turned out fortunately for the former, for the latter ruinously (exitiosius); “quia victores diversam aciem Marti ac Mercurio sacravere, quo voto, equi, viri, cuncta victa occidioni dantur.” Livy (iii55) recalls a law passed under the consuls L. Valerius and M. Horatius: “Ut qui tribunis plebis, œdilibus, judicibus, decemviris nocuisset, ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset; familia ad œdem Cereris, Liberi, Liberœque venum iret.” We may remember further the ver sacrum, so beautifully described by Uhland in his familiar poem, and the burning up of a part of the spoils, to consecrate them to the gods, as was also done in Roman antiquity (Appian, Pun. ch. cxxxiii; Mithr. ch. xlv.). Similar is the taboo of the South Sea’ islanders, a ban the violation of which was punished with death. See the Calwer Missions-Geschichte by Blumhardt, ii. pp238, 243. [Murray’s Encyc. of Geog. iii. p156; Cook’s Voyages (2vols. Lond1842), vol. ii. pp112, 113, 255, and often.]

2. The fall of the walls of Jericho is just as much referred to the immediate causality of God, as the miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Jordan. It is a soulless expedient, therefore, to think of an undermining of the walls. Much rather might we approve the resort to an earthquake, because in such a natural event the divine agency is directly involved. But there is nothing said of that in the text, and it is therefore best simply to recognize the fact. It was for the Canaanites a terror, to the Israelites a most cheering sign of the continued presence of God with his people. For us its symbolical significance is not to be lightly estimated, especially for those among us to whom the Bible is indeed precious but much of what is related in it difficult to receive,—really earnest Christians, whom we should not on this account (as Isaiah, alas, so commonly done) immediately characterize as infidels. This name, indeed, it would in general be far better to apply somewhat more sparingly, unless all investigation of Scripture is to be threatened with the ban.

[“By this” (namely, its occurrence, through the direct efficiency of God), “the fall of Jericho became the image and type of the fall of every world-power before the Lord, when He comes to lead his people into Canaan and to establish his kingdom on earth. On the ground of this fact it Isaiah, that the blast of the trumpet becomes, in the writings of the prophets, the signal and symbolical prognostic of the revelations of the Lord in the great judgments by which Hebrews, through the destruction of one world-power after the other, maintains and extends his kingdom on earth, and carries it onward toward perfection. This it will reach when He descends from heaven in his glory at the time of the last trumpet, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and trump of God, to raise the dead and change the living, to hold the judgment of the world and cast the devil, and death, and hell into the lake of fire, to create heaven and earth anew, and in the New Jerusalem to set up the tabernacle of God with men forever and ever.” ( 1 Corinthians 15:51 ff.; 1 Thessalonians 4:16 f.; Revelation 20, 21) Keil.

“By ordering that the walls of Jericho should fall only after the circuit of the city during seven days, and on the seventh day seven times with the sound of the alarm-trumpets and the war-cry of the warriors of God’s people, God would make this city, the key of Canaan, a type of the final destruction of the powers of this world which stand in hostile opposition to the kingdom of God. By this would He not only intimate to his people that not immediately, but after protracted and patient struggles, finally at the end of the world, will the hostile world-power be subdued, but also hint to the enemies of his kingdom, that their strength, although they may long resist, yet at last will perish in a moment.” Keil.—Tr.]

3. It is worthy of notice how the Redeemer has signalized Jericho. Here he entered into the house of Zacchæus ( Luke 19:5; Luke 19:9); here he healed Bartimeus of his blindness ( Mark 10:46; Mark 10:52; Luke 18:35); in the neighborhood of this city he repeated the announcement of his sufferings ( Luke 18:31; Matthew 20:28). He thinks of Jericho in the parable of the good Samaritan ( Luke 10:30). Then Jericho was a prominent city by reason of Herod’s magnificent buildings there; now it is a miserable village. [See the references on Joshua 2:1.]

4. As the blessing operates in its effects through centuries, so not less does the curse, when a moral justification accompanies it. The curse upon Jericho was the curse upon everything of an idolatrous nature, upon the Canaanite race with all its heathenish abominations; it was therefore a theocratic curse on sin itself. Such a curse Paul utters, on the principles of the N. T, against all teachers of error and corruptors of the congregation ( 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8), with the same propriety as did Joshua. The more the leaven of Christianity spreads and pervades all things, the less occasion shall we have for cursing; we shall have occasion rather for praising God and blessing the brethren. But he who sees everywhere only apostasy and error, who will not perceive that even now salvation is nearer to us than before, he will doubtless rather curse than bless, as in fact not only ultramontane Catholics, but also some professing Protestantism abundantly do. But they are no Joshuas, neither of them. Their glance reaches not even into the near future, to say nothing of distant ages. So their sentences of curse die away in a silence to our great comfort, because they have no moral justification.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The closed and barred Jericho an image (1) of a closed heart; (2) of a closed house; (3) of a closed congregation.—As the Lord gave Jericho into the hand of Joshua, so He still always gives every closed heart, and every closed house, and every closed congregation (or even city) into the hand of his servants.—The trump of the year of jubilee and the trump of Judgment.—Before the war-shout of the spiritual Israel fall all the walls which the world has reared for its own defense, especially the walls of self-righteousness behind which sin pursues its courses.—The procession around Jericho, (1) silent, (2) but with the accompaniment of trumpet blasts, a procession in the name of the Lord God of Israel.—The capture of Jericho, (1) well prepared for by Joshua, (2) gloriously accomplished by God’s almighty power. The dawn of the seventh day a dawn of victory. The confidence of Joshua’s faith.—Shout, for God has given you the city.—The holy curse.—The holy deliverance ( Joshua 6:17.)—Judgment and mercy shown by the devotement of Jericho on the one hand, and on the other by the deliverance of Rahab.—Keep yourselves from that which is devoted.—The treasure of the Lord, consisting (1) in Israel, in gold and silver, and brass (2) among us, in the holy gospel of the blessed God in Christ Jesus.—The walls fell down flat! O, how shall we rejoice when one day all the walls which proud worldliness has built fall down, even those which statutes have erected—the walls of cloisters and the walls of Rome!—The glorious victory of the people, a condemnation at the same time of Jericho.—The rescue of Rahab considered in reference (1) to her person (description of her character according to Joshua 2, Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25); (2) to the conscientiousness of Joshua, who would have the word which had been given kept; (3) to the future of the kingdom of God (Rahab from among the heathen, the mother of a family, and what is connected with that: Rahab the heathen woman is received into Israel, that through Israel the heathen also might be saved).—The imprecation upon Jericho; (1) a well deserved sentence; hence (2) fulfilled as a prophetic word, when Hiel again built the city, 1 Kings 16:34.—Rather bless than curse, because we are Christians.—Men not to be cursed, but only sin.

Starke: That is the way of the sons of this world; seeing need and danger at the door they resort only to human plans and expedients for escape, when they ought to betake themselves to God and seek shelter with him, Jeremiah 18:11; Psalm 1:15.—To build fortresses and to fly thither in time of need is not indeed wrong in itself, but let not one trust too much in them, because without God no inclosure can help, Hosea 8:14; Psalm 127:1.—Those who sit at the helm should not sleep at mid-day, but be up betimes, and attend to their duties, Romans 12:7.—A believing and fervent prayer is the true war-shout by which we may conquer our spiritual foes and destroy the devil’s kingdom. Christian brother, avail thyself of that therefore with diligence ( Ephesians 6:18).

Hedinger: Every carnal heart is a closed Jericho; God sits down before it and shoots mercy and grace up against its walls. Well for those who do not harden themselves!

Cramer: God’s promises are as certain as if they had already been fulfilled and gone into effect, 2 Corinthians 1:20; Psalm 33:4.—God thinks also of compassion when He is most angry, for in the midst of wrath He is gracious, Genesis 6:8; Genesis 6:11-13 f.—What God curses no man must bless, and what God blesses let no man curse, Numbers 23:8; 1 Kings 16:34.

Gerlach: Through the silence of the people it should be more clearly manifest that it was the Lord who fought for Israel. Exercised in faith, under the scorn of their foes should the strength granted them by God be kept till the moment of action.

[G. R. B.: In the progress of his spiritual kingdom also God has chosen to employ means for vanquishing the strongholds of unbelief and worldliness very different from what would suggest themselves to human contrivance. But God’s “foolishness” in this, as we might be sure beforehand, has proved itself wiser than all the wisdom of men, and alone efficacious in subduing the proud and bolted heart to repentance and the trustful acceptance of Christ’s gracious rule, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25. Therefore let Israel only persevere in sounding the gospel trumpet, patient under delays but constant in the wondrous, even though despised, proclamation, and in due time the stoutest walls of opposition shall fall flat.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Joshua 6:4.—קֶרֶן הַיּוֹבֵל = וֹפְרוֹת הַיּוֹבְלִים ( Joshua 6:5). The specific character of the trumpets or horns here mentioned, as indicated by the very obscure word יוֹבל, is elaborately discussed in the Exegetical Notes, to which may well be added the information contained in Smith’s Bibl. Dict. articles “Cornet” and “Jubilee.” See also Leyrer’s remarks in Herzog’s Theol. Realencyk. s. v. “Musik,” vol. x. p131. With reference to the translation to be adopted, a word is ventured here. From a comparison of the passages cited below it is obvious that the יוֹבֵל (whether meaning directly a sound or an instrument of sound) indicated a loud sound, a sound of a very impressive, if not formidable character. It was a sound always serving as a signal, or alarm in the more general sense of this word. Hence, that it was produced literally by a “rams’ horn” employed as the instrument (making יוֹבֵל denote a ram), seems a physical impossibility, even if the etymological ground for such an interpretation were more than a chimera. But it is not; this meaning, therefore; may unhesitatingly be set aside. In their uncertainty as to the real derivation of the word, many lexicographers and interpreters have then been content to pass it with the vague sense of Jubilee (Jubel) horn, because this particular instrument was employed to signalize through the land the return of the Sabbatical (Jubilee) year. But this is a Hysteron-proteron, for the word is used before the Sabbatical year had ever been mentioned ( Exodus 19:13), to indicate the signal or alarm by which the people should be warned of the appearance of God on Mount Sinai. It Isaiah, furthermore, significant that down to the last mention of the יוֹבֵל in Scripture, there had been no occurrence of the year of Jubilee to give a denomination to the trumpet or anything else connected with its observance. The Sabbatical year, therefore, received its name as the year of the יוֹבֵל, or as itself the יוֹבֵל, from the name of the instrument or of the sound by which it was to be ushered in and heralded to all the people. Instead of learning the character of the instrument from that of the sacred year, we must, vice versa, learn that of the year (so far as intimated by its name) from the peculiar mode of its announcement. Its intrinsic character to the experience of the people had yet to be ascertained by them, and could now be only obscurely foreseen.

We are left then to study the actual quality and use of the horn of יוֹבֵל, first from the passages outside of the circle of the jubilee year, and then from those relating to that year, to get practically at the meaning of the word.

Perhaps neither of the meanings “signal,” “alarm,” to which we are thus brought can be rigidly adhered to in all places. In the Pentateuch generally “signal” would perhaps be more appropriate; here in Joshua “alarm” is at least equally so. If we were at perfect liberty to make compound words, “loud-horn” might pretty well cover all the uses. Zunz’s excellent version gives schmetterndes Horn, “rattling,” “clattering horn.”—Tr.]

FN#2 - Joshua 6:7.—ויאמרו. “The plural is not to be altered here, but to be explained from the fact that Joshua made the announcement not in person but through the Schoterim ( Joshua 1:10; Joshua 3:2) by whom his orders were officially published.” Keil.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Joshua 6:7.—Him that is armed (the armed body), הֶחָלוּץ, (“expeditus, stripped .… i. q. armed, ready, etc.” Gesen. s. v.) here distinguished from הַֽמְאסֵּף “rere-ward” Joshua 6:9, as a part only of the “men of war,” verse 3 They may have been a special branch of the forces (light-armed, πελτασταί, which the etymology would slightly favor), or, more probably, the soldiery of the Transjordanic tribes who were to cross the river חֲלוּצֵי הַצָּבָֹא, Joshua 4:13, comp Keil in loc.—Tr.]

FN#4 - Joshua 6:9—The Heb. leaves the subject of this indefinite; our knowledge otherwise gained suggests the priests.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Joshua 6:18. This verse would be more correctly given somewhat thus: “Only do ye keep yourselves from what is devoted, lest ye devote, and take of what is devoted, and make the camp of Israel a devoted thing, and trouble it.” To devote (to Jehovah) and to take (for themselves) were two incompatible things: “Utrumque consistere non poterat, pugnuntia erant, .… aut non erat res devovenda, aut cum devotum esset ab ea abstinendum erat.” Lud. de Dieu ap Keil in loc.—Tr.]

FN#6 - Joshua 6:20. Lit.: And the people shouted, and they blew with the trumpets.—Tr .]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 6:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/joshua-6.html. 1857-84.

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Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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