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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 6



Verses 1-27

Joshua 5:13 to Joshua 6:27. The Capture of Jericho.—The narrative begins at Joshua 5:13; Joshua 6:1 is an insertion (observe that RV places it in brackets), so that Joshua 6:2 should immediately follow Joshua 5:15. The captain of Yahweh's host is therefore Yahweh Himself. In the rest of the chapter we have a composite narrative, so skilfully compiled that at first sight there is not much fault to find. Closer inspection, however, shows that there are two signals for the fall of the walls—(a) a shout after a blast of the trumpets (Joshua 6:5), and (b) a shout after Joshua's command (Joshua 6:10). Further, the priests and the rearguard also are said to have sounded the trumpets during the circuit of the walls: this is probably a very late addition. Wellhausen's suggestion, which has been generally accepted, is that two accounts are combined; in the first the Israelites marched round the walls once a day for seven days, while in the second the Israelites went round the walls seven times in one day These stories were combined by an editor who may have added the statement that the trumpets were sounded during the circuit of the walls. Most scholars are satisfied that this is the best solution as yet offered.

It is, however, possible that the first and simplest narrative is based on a still earlier and simpler account, of which traces remain in the LXX. Here we find that the command at the beginning of the chapter contains no reference at all to marching round the walls of the city. Joshua 6:3 f. runs in LXX as follows: "And do thou set the men of war round the city, and it shall be when ye blow with the trumpet, let all the people shout together, and when they shout, the walls of the city shall fall down of themselves and all the people shall hasten to enter into the city." Here the command is, Surround the city, give a signal by blowing a trumpet, raise the battle-cry and deliver the assault. That the walls should fall down of themselves, is a vivid statement of the fact that the army would encounter no resistance. The Rahab clan in the city would open the gates, or find some other means of letting the invaders within the walls. The capture of Bethel, as recounted in Judges 1:24, should be read in connexion with this. [The recent excavations at Jericho do not support the historicity of the statement that the walls collapsed. Handcock says, "none of the fortification works at Jericho shows any sign of having been destroyed to the extent that a reader of Joshua VI would naturally suppose" (Archæology of the Holy Land, p. 101).—A. S. P.]

The original and simple narrative that the city was surrounded and taken by assault, aided by the cooperation of some of the inhabitants, was gradually enlarged. The additions would probably begin with the introduction of the Ark. When it was felt that the Ark ought to have some place of honour in the taking of Jericho, as it had in the crossing of the Jordan, the command to surround the city would become a command to march round the city, with the Ark in a position of honour. Naturally the priests would have to accompany the Ark. Hence a simple historical fact has been altered out of all recognition. (Cf. the transformation which the earlier narrative in Judges 5 has suffered in Judges 4 and the similar alterations in Ch.; especially the narrative of the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem; cf. 2 Samuel 6 with 1 Chronicles 13, 15.)

Joshua 6:17. devoted: i.e. placed under the ban (herem), devoted to utter destruction. To save anything alive or appropriate anything thus devoted, as Achan did, was counted a grievous sin (cf. Deuteronomy 2:34*, 1 Samuel 15. pp. 99, 114).—A. S. P.]

Joshua 6:26 b. The exact meaning of these words is difficult to determine (1 Kings 16:34*). The simplest solution is to believe that the builder offered his firstborn as a foundation sacrifice and his youngest son as a final sacrifice on the completion of the rebuilding, and that the religious feeling of later times (cf. Micah 6:7) transformed the sacrifices into a punishment. It was a well-known custom in primitive times for the foundation of a house to be inaugurated with a human sacrifice. We feel reluctant to admit that this custom obtained in Israel, but after the excavations at Gezer it is impossible to deny the existence of human foundation sacrifices as late as "the latter half of the Jewish monarchy" (pp. 83, 99, Exodus 13:2*). See Driver, Schweich Lectures, pp. 69-72, where a photograph is given, and objections to the theory that a foundation sacrifice is here referred to are stated. The actual rebuilding of the Canaanitish city of Jericho appears not to have been attempted. Archaeological evidence seems to show that another city was built not far from the old site (see Driver, p. 92).


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Joshua 6:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

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