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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Joshua 6

 

 

Verses 1-5

THE SIEGE AND FALL OF JERICHO

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . This verse is merely a parenthesis in the account of the interview, beginning chap. Jos 5:13, and ending chap. Jos 6:5. The division of the chapters in the midst of a deeply interesting narrative of only eight verses, is most unhappy. Was straitly shut up] Marg. "Did shut up, and was shut up." The antecedent act of closing—which probably followed the escape of the spies—and the continuance of that act, are both marked in the phrase.

Jos . The Lord] Heb. "Jehovah;" the same as "The Captain of the host of Jehovah," in chap. Jos 5:14.

Jos . Trumpets of rams' horns] "Trumpets of jubilee" [Gesenius]. The word, the meaning of which is involved in considerable obscurity, appears to indicate a bent or curved horn, in distinction from the straight trumpet.

Jos . Shall fall down flat] Lit. Fall down under itself. The wall was to fall to its foundations; the foundations themselves should give way. Every man straight before him] The overthrow of the wall should be so complete, that no soldier should have to deviate from a direct line in order to enter the city.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos

THE SYMBOLICAL BATTLE

This plan of attack on Jericho seems to have been communicated for four reasons:—

1. It was for encouragement. "I have given Jericho," etc. It is as though, in the character of Prince of the host, the Lord had said to Joshua, "Jericho is already yours; I have left nothing to accident. Each march, each day's work, the place for human silence and human shouting, the order of march, and the hour of victory, are all planned." Israel was to see the assurance of triumph in the completeness and deliberateness of the arrangements.

2. These words were for direction. This was the first conflict in the new land, and nothing was to be left for human discretion. God would have no hesitation before the enemy; every movement was to be firm and measured. Our Heavenly Father loves that we should begin aright. He says, through Hosea, "I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms." So it is here with the twelve tribes. God would have His soldiers know His way of fighting.

3. This outline of the first battle is given as an aid to faith in battles yet to come. Christ told Peter of his denial beforehand, not that this would help him much in that temptation, for in that he would fall; but it would help him afterwards to see how exactly his Lord had known the poor measure of his strength, and the exact force and results of the conflict. It is the same here before Jericho. These words are after the manner of Him who loves to tell events to His disciples "before they come to pass, that when they come to pass, they may believe." How firmly Joshua would believe after this! His faith is seen nowhere more beautiful than in his overwhelming surprise at the defeat before Ai. When we are fighting for Christ, we should be astounded where things go against us; as it is, we are too often surprised when they make for our victory. This picture was for future trust.

4. This siegs of Jericho was to be a pattern fight. It was to be a model and sample for all the battles of God's people yet to come. Certain principles are laid down and emphasized which were never to be forgotten. These may be summarised under three leading thoughts, some having regard to Man, some to Religion, and some to God.

I. Man's province and part in life's conflicts. There is to be on the part of man:—

1. Diligent labour. Once every morning these thousands of armed men were to walk round Jericho, and on the last day this labour was to be multiplied seven-fold. What else could God mean to say but this—"Though I have given Jericho into your hand, you are to work nevertheless"? Again, we are made to see in this history that God's promises should not lead to inactivity. If Antinomianism had only been found oftener sitting at the feet of Scripture History, it might have found that the way of God's predestination and of man's toil are so plainly one way that none need err therein. Coleridge has made his Ancient Mariner say of the ship becalmed in the tropics—

"Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, nor breath nor motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean."

And so some have lain becalmed on the promises. Men have failed to work for the salvation of sinners, have deliberately declined to teach the way of life even to their own children, weakly and wickedly saying, "If these are elect, they will be brought to Christ without any effort of mine." Who could wonder if the ocean of Divine truth and precious promises became, to such, merely a painted ocean? Who could wonder if, before such a creed, and its correspondent life, those other words of the Mariner found a terrible application?—

"The very deep did rot: O Christ!

That ever this should be!

Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs

Upon the slimy sea."

He who lies becalmed and idle on doctrines or promises, will presently find that to him they are rottenness, and that, out of their corruption, horrible forms will arise to affright him, and to make his idle rest far more dreadful and unbearable than his life could ever have become by the most arduous labour. God always gives faith something to do.

2. As well as diligent labour, there is to be reverent obedience. God taught His people to work six days, apparently doing nothing. It is easy enough to work for Christ when ground is manifestly being gained. Fighting is not hard work when souls are won to Christ; when an enemy goes down at well nigh every blow, and many captives are delivered. It is far harder work to toil and do nothing. The work of the treadmill is so fearful because nothing is done; it is but "grinding wind," say the wretched prisoners. Yet these Israelites were content simply to walk round Jericho day after day, doing nothing; and, scarcely less hard it may be to some, feeling very foolish, because of what seemed such aimless and useless toil. Thus Carey laboured for a lifetime marching round letters and languages and dialects, and probably some wondered how he could call that work for Christ. So David Livingstone spent his life in walking up and down Africa, and some well-meaning and good men asked, "How can he call himself a missionary? He is merely a geographer," they said; "he has been discovering the water-shed of a continent, instead of carrying to its thirsty inhabitants the Water of Life." So little did they know of what was being done; so little, perhaps, did Livingstone himself sometimes know. We can see now that in all that, to some, aimless marching, England's sympathy, America's sympathy, the sympathy of all Christendom, was being won for Africa; and that the heart of the whole Church of Christ was being brought to feel, "Those negroes must no longer be made slaves; those men and women must hear the gospel; the work of the great man who died upon his knees for Africa, and whose heart lies buried in Africa, must not be suffered—under God, shall not be suffered—to fall to the ground." It is very hard, however, to learn to do what seems to be nothing. The soldiers at Waterloo, who lay for hours beneath falling shot, waiting for Wellington's cry, "Up, guards, and at ‘em," had by no means the easiest part of the battle. Elijah's toil seemed so hopeless as he cried, "I only am left," that even from his brave lips, which were wont to speak in other tones, there came presently the wail, "O Lord, take away my life." It is hard for parents to teach their children, when all their labour seems so useless; fruitless work is hard for other teachers, and hard for preachers. God shews us here that it is enough for us to say, "Am I doing faithfully and prayerfully and zealously what my Lord has bidden me to do?" If we are blameless there, we may still find room for the joy of obedience.

3. On the part of men there is to be, also, patient waiting. A week is not long at some work and in some places; yet it is long here. Think of it; a week of laughter from their foes; week on the battle-field; a week of what men would call ridiculous behaviour in the sight and presence of death! The old typical battle often repeats itself; we too have to wait, and we are to wait on, even when waiting has to be like that.

II. The sphere of religion in life's conflicts.

1. In all our battles, religion is to be the prominent and central object before ourselves. In the midst of the Jordan, the Ark was made to seem everything in the eyes of the Israelites: the waters were kept back by that. So the Ark was made to seem the centre of interest and hope before Jericho: everything was to be arranged before or behind that. Thus our life is all to be counted off and planned in the light of God. He is to be the centre around which everything gathers, and from which every movement is to be reckoned. In some of our battles we need look on little else than God:—take poverty; take sickness and pain; take bereavement; take sin. In each of our conflicts, God must be "all in all."

2. Religion is to be shewn to be our one hope before our enemies. We are to make others feel that every expectation gathers about the Ark. Men, in their earthly conflicts, are tempted to two faults; one is to keep religion out of sight, the other is to make religion a parade, in which attention is drawn to themselves as being pious. Our hope in God is to be firmly exhibited, to the confusion of our foes; on the other hand, no trumpet is to sound saving just before the Ark of the Lord; all the sounds of triumph are to gather about His Name and Presence. We must so manage such exhibition of our religion as is necessary, that all eyes may be turned, not to us, but to Him.

3. Religion is not a system contrived to extol itself and its institutions, but a system designed to extol God. The very first battle in the land of the covenant should be long enough to manifestly cover one Sabbath. For what reason was this? Surely it could but be to shew that God is pleased not to absolutely fetter and bind His children by the religious services which He appointed for their help. In ordinary times, Sabbath law was sternly imperative; so imperative was it, that a Sabbath-breaker had been already stoned before the eyes of all Israel. "The Sabbath was made for man," and so great a mercy must be rigidly guarded; not because it was an arbitrary and an inflexible command of God, but because it was so priceless a blessing for men. The sacredness of the Sabbath was to be jealously protected, even unto blood; the boon was so precious! But "man was not made for the Sabbath," and thus, when man's necessities became urgent, the Sabbath was subordinate to him. Thus does God lay down Sabbath law, and religious law generally, even in these early days. History tells us that the Jews did not readily learn this lesson, and that in after years many were slain by enemies who chose this day on which to slay men who would not fight because it was the Sabbath. Religion is not a God-appointed burden to be hung round the necks of His children, to place them at a disadvantage before their enemies. There are places, on the shewing of Divine Love itself, where Sabbaths must give place to men. The farmer must tend his cattle on Sundays also. The soldier must sometimes fight on the Lord's day, and is at liberty not merely to defend himself, but may, where needful, even assume the offensive. He who reads this gracious teaching reverently, will not find that it leads to lax thoughts of the Lord's day. By so much as God's mercy is gentle and discriminating, by so much are its requirements severe. It is precisely in this considerateness of our Lord, that a filial spirit will learn to stand in awe and sin not.

III. The influence and help of God in life's conflicts.

1. All real power for victory is to be seen to be in Him. That is the secret of this strange plan of battle, in which Israel is to work hard doing nothing, and to work in absolute silence till the time comes for the falling of the walls The Lord is to be all our hope and all our trust. Each soldier in His army is to learn to say, "My expectation is from Him."

2. With God for us, victory is always a mere question of time. The pattern battle was to teach this also. No faithful soldier of the Lord, from that day to this, has ever gone on fighting in the confidence of that, and found it untrue.

3. This symbolical battle, which shews that power is all of God, shews, not less clearly, that praise should be entirely to God. All the spoil, in this instance, was to be "devoted" to Him, as though He would have His people to know that everything, at all times, was His due. It is when we learn more truly to sing for victories past, that we shall find our victories more common and more glorious in the future. Some one has said, "A line of praise is worth a leaf of prayer." While it is ever His right, perhaps even more because it is for our good, God would have us sing, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory."

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos . HUMAN FORTIFICATIONS AGAINST DIVINE POWER.

I. God designing the subjugation of rebellious men.

1. God sees the beginnings of rebellion. He marks the abodes of men from the first (Gen ). He beholds the iniquities of men (Gen 13:13).

2. God warns the rebellious by solemn providences and judgments (Gen ). The plagues of Egypt, and the wonders of the wilderness, with the rumours which must have reached the Canaanites of the purpose and mission of the Israelites, should also have been taken as warnings.

3. God waits patiently and gives long space for repentance. From the destruction of the cities of the plain to the time of this encampment before Jericho, there was a period of about four hundred and fifty years.

4. When time and mercy fail, God makes coming punishment more and more manifest. The rumours of the past forty years are seen gradually taking form and substance in facts. The cloud of threatening grows darker and larger, and comes ever nearer, till it hangs immediately over the city. To come back to the figure befitting the history, the military lines in God's war are being pushed nearer and ever nearer preliminary to the final assault.

II. Men fortifying themselves against Divine power. The city was very closely shut up and strongly secured. The Chaldee says that it was "shut with iron gates strengthened with bars of brass."

1. The efforts of men to resist God are always weak and foolish. Iron and brass and stone, for gates and walls, are as nothing in the hands of Him who made them. Massive intellects, strong wills, and hardened hearts cannot hope to resist more successfully. He also made the minds, the wills, and the hearts which turn to rebellion, and rebellion does but make them more feeble.

2. The efforts of men to resist God are manifestly weak and foolish. The Red Sea divided, the Amorites overthrown, and the Jordan "fleeing back" before the approach of the Lord, might make it plain to any who were not foolishly infatuated that resistance would but aggravate ruin When the Lord of Sabaoth thus compasses the rebellious about with enemies, it were wise to cry with Jehoshaphat: "We have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon THEE." God loves to help the broken and contrite heart even at the last hour. Yet do the rebellious foolishly go on fortifying.

III. God visiting men in order to overthrow them. Sometimes Divine visitations are in love; sometimes they are in anger.

1. Some men are overthrown that they may be saved. Rahab and her family were thus delivered. Had others repented, they too might have been saved. God, who changes not, shews us at Nineveh that He loves to recall nothing so much as His messages of wrath.

2. Some are overthrown that they may be destroyed. Were Divine threatenings other than real, they would cease to have power; law would be at an end, and sin and confusion would run riot in an awful liberty.

IV. God overthrowing men by men.

1. This is His way with those who are saved. Jesus Christ comes into our humanity, first conquering it, and then delivering it. As Horace Bushnell has so forcibly pointed out in his sermon on "Salvation by Man," deliverance comes from within the race. And it is instrumentally by men that deliverance goes on. It is "by the foolishness of preaching" that God saves those who believe.

2. This is often the Divine way with those who are destroyed, (a) God suffers the unrepentant to be tempted and led on to ruin by their fellows. (b) Saved men will witness in the day of judgment to the overthrow of those who have refused to believe (cf. Luk ).

"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 (eventually) every closed heart, and every closed house, and every closed congregation, or even city, into the hand of His servants." [Lange.]

"Every carnal heart is a Jericho shut up. God sits down before it, and displays mercy and judgment in the sight of the walls thereof: it hardens itself in a wilful security, and saith, ‘Tush, I shall never be moved.'"[Bp. Hall.]

Jos . "JERICHO CAPTURED."

I. God would have His people WORK. The work to be done by Israel was to be:

1. Universal.

2. Done in God's own appointed way.

3. Done daily.

4. Done in faith.

II. God would have His people WAIT. This delay must have sorely tried the faith and patience of the Israelites. How could they hope to win that city by simply going round and round? Probably the citizens of Jericho insulted them from the walls. God has His reasons for making us wait. It is for His own glory, we doubt not. We believe it will ultimately be for our profit.

III. God would have His people WIN. The victory is very sure; it will be very complete; it may, also, be very sudden; and it will be very glorious." [C.H. Spurgeon, Met. Tab. Pulpit.]

Jos . "It seemed good to Infinite Wisdom to appoint this method of besieging the city.

(1) To magnify Divine power, both to the Canaanites and to Israel, shewing that Omnipotence alone had achieved the work, and that God was infinitely above the need of the ordinary means of obtaining a victory.

(2) To try the faith and obedience of Joshua and the people, by prescribing a course of conduct that seemed to human wisdom the height of folly and absurdity, and also to secure a profound respect to all His subsequent institutions, however simple or contemptible they might seem.

(3) To put honour upon the Ark as the appointed token of God's presence, and to confirm still more fully that veneration and awe with which they had always been taught to regard it." [Bush.]

Jos , When God makes religion to be the centre round which these movements of war revolve, and the power by which victory is won, surely He would have us see that we should engage in nothing where we cannot ask Him to be with us, and hope to triumph nowhere unless He be present.

In this world of sin and strife, the consolations of religion, and the help of God, have sometimes to be sought even on the field of battle.

Religion carries her trumpets everywhere, and dares to be jubilant anywhere.

The city was to be compassed seven times; but we must look for the reason of this in men, not in God. Omnipotence would have found one journey more than sufficient.

1. God would give sinners space for repentance unto life eternal, even when hope of temporal salvation is cut off.

2. God would tench His children that punishment is ever to come after patience. Even Divine vengeance moves with slow and measured paces.

3. God would shew His servants that religion may have to compass sin's strongholds not once, but many times, ere victory be secured.

The march of silence should teach us that the true soldiers of the cross are to know themselves to be nothing; and the shout of anticipation, that they are to know their Lord as faithful and all-sufficient.

When God makes a way for His people, each man may ascend "straight before him" to victory. The angular and devious ways which we have to traverse in life's journey are not for lack of power in Him, but for want of discipline in us.


Verses 6-16

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . Before the Lord] The Ark is now taken as the symbol of the Divine presence, just as the Pillar of Cloud had been formerly.

Jos . The armed men went before] These are thought to have been the chosen men of the two and a half tribes. "The chalutz, or ‘selected troops,' went before the Ark, and the measseph, or ‘massed troops,' followed the Ark." [Crosby.]

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos ; Jos 6:20

THE FALL OF JERICHO

In looking at the general features of this attack on Jericho, and of the overthrow of the city, there are three things specially prominent:—

I. The significance of the typical formul. Certain forms were very minutely and emphatically commanded by God for the direction of Joshua and the people. These are defined with so much care and precision, and urged in detail so particularly, that they cannot be passed by as insignificant. What were they meant to teach? What would God impress upon the Israelites by these unusual and conspicuous methods of attack?

1. Here is a repeated and very marked introduction of the number seven. There are seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days for the continuance of the siege, one journey round the city each day, making seven daily circuits, and then seven circuits on the last day. The long blast of the trumpets, the great shout of the people, and the sudden falling of the walls, were to immediately succeed this seventh circuit thus made on the seventh day. When we remember that God was avowedly teaching His people by outward signs, it is impossible to regard all this as empty repetition. We should endeavour to ascertain the meaning and force of this use of the number to these Israelites; then, striking off any differences between their outward circumstances and our own, the principles which remain will be the Divine teaching to us. Kitto, Keil, Bhr, and Hengstenberg all agree that this use of the number seven had reference to the covenant between Jehovah and Israel. Dr. Kitto points out very fully that this number has ever had remarkable prominence in many nations besides that of the Jews, and thinks that "the one great fact in which all this originated is the work of creation in seven days." Several of the following illustrations are from Kitto's remarks on the subject. Grimm says, "Even at the present day the number seven is curiously regarded in Germany in matters of evidence." In England we have seven years' parliaments. Leases of farms and houses are drawn for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. Persons come of age at thrice seven years. The transportation of criminals, the indentures of apprenticeship, and other similar matters, have had reference to the number seven. These cases have each to do with legal covenants and transactions. "Among the gifts with which Agamemnon proposed to seal a covenant of peace with Achilles, Homer speaks of

‘Seven tripods, unsullied yet with fire,'

and further on, of seven female captives, skilled in domestic arts, the latter especially intended as an atonement-offering to the wrathful hero." It is said that "among the ancient Arabians, when men pledged their faith to each other by oath, blood, drawn from an incision near the mid-finger of the contracting parties, was sprinkled upon seven stones, placed between them, and while this was done, they called upon their gods." "In the Hebrew language, as in the Sanscrit, the words for ‘an oath' and for ‘seven' are the same. In the former language, Sheba has that twofold meaning; hence the question whether the name Beer-sheba, where Abraham and Abimelech confirmed their covenant by a solemn oath, means ‘the well of the oath,' or ‘the well of seven,' or ‘seven wells.' If, in this remarkable instance, we dispense with the allusion in the name to the number seven, that number is still present; for before the oath was uttered, Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs in so marked a manner as to attract the inquiries of the king, to whom the patriarch answered, ‘These seven ewe lambs shalt thou take at my hand, that they may be a witness unto me that I have digged this well.'" So Balak builds for Balaam seven altars in order to secure a covenant with their gods for a curse on Israel. Asa and Hezekiah, in after years, each brings his offerings in sevens, to renew the national covenant before the Lord. Naaman dips seven times in Jordan. This prominence given to this particular number is seen running not less conspicuously through the Jewish rites and sacrifices. "The altar itself, at its original establishment, was to be consecrated for seven days to render it most holy. A young animal was not held fit for sacrifice until it had remained seven days with its dam; and so likewise the male child, among the Hebrews, was, after seven days, that is, on the eighth day, consecrated to the Lord by circumcision." By referring to a concordance, these instances will be seen to be only a few among many which go to illustrate the sacredness attached to this number by the Jews both before and after this siege of Jericho.

While fanciful meanings are to be deprecated, there can be no possible doubt that, in this attack on Jericho, God designed to call the attention of the Jews to His covenant. They were to go up to this battle, and to all of which this was meant to be a pattern, remembering the oath of the Lord to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, in all our conflicts, we are to fight in sight of the promises, most of all remembering "the blood of the everlasting covenant," by which alone we can be victorious, (a) Do we work for the salvation of our fellows in view of God's unfailing word? Is the work of parents for their children, of teachers for their classes, of ministers for their congregations, sufficiently carried on in the light of covenanted blessing? Do we not often go in our own strength to battles in which we can only hope to succeed as we go in the strength of the Lord? In vulgar phrase, it is "number one," and not "number seven," that we emblazon on our banners; it is about our poor weak personality that we hang our expectations, instead of resting on the sure word of Jehovah. How some of the old prophets were wont to cry, "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!" No matter what was to be done, if they could only say that: it might be the captivity of a whole nation at Babylon, or a return from such a captivity; it might be a cradle at Bethlehem, a cross on Calvary, and a Redeemer for the whole world; if they could only say, "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it," their utterance was ever given in the energy of faith and in the unhesitating tones of triumph. If we only went to our work and conflicts with all our hopes, like this army of Israelites, gathering about a covenant centre, we should not so often be talking about our own weakness, or about the hopeless wickedness of those whom we seek to win for the Saviour. The very fact that we are so disheartened at our own feebleness, or at the difficulty of the work which we are seeking to compass, says, as plainly as it well could be said, that we have scarcely so much as given the covenant a thought, much less our trust. (b) Are we bearing our sufferings through faith in Divine words? Is "number one," or is "number seven," the more conspicuous here? (c) Are we seeking to subdue personal sin, having all our hopes of victory gathering about what the mouth of the Lord hath spoken? Thoughts like these are surely thoughts which God meant us to reflect on, as He had these ancient words "written for our admonition."

2. Here is the prominent position given to the Ark. This has already been adverted to under the previous verses. We not only need the promises, but their Divine Author.

3. Here is the impressive silence of the people (Jos ). Not only did it need that the Lord should be there, but men were to be as though they were not there. They were to "keep silence before Him" whose presence was necessary, and not so much as to pretend that they had any real part in getting the victory.

4. Here is the equally impressive shout which immediately preceded the overthrow of the walls (Jos ). The Lord would have His enemies to see that He and His people are in close union. The men of Jericho must have seen that the God of Israel was doing all; the shout which just anticipated the fall of the walls would shew that God had means of making His time known to the Israelites, and that they in turn fully believed in Him. This is a shout of faith, and a shout of anticipating praise.

II. The severity of the spiritual discipline.

1. God tries His servants by commanding things which apparently have little adaptation to the end sought. How absurd this marching would seem to the critical Israelitish mind; and how the patience of the "intelligent" part of the host would be tried. If the dividing of the Jordan had not been so fresh in mind, we feel as though there might have been yet another rebellion. But this process of besieging the city, which looks so unnatural to us, was exactly adapted to accomplish the purpose of Jehovah. God was not waiting all this time to collect His energy for the everthrow of a few walls. He was not waiting to gather up His power for the destruction of the Canaanites. He could have spoken and destroyed the city and the idolaters at a word. The Lord had a more exalted war. His battle was with human hearts. He was seeking to overcome these Israelites rather than those Canaanites. He would subdue them to Himself with faith, and bind them fast with wonder and thankfulness and love. And whatever "intelligent" men might think of fancied absurdities in this conflict, surely there never was such a display of military genius before. These tactics of human silence and the quiet walking of so vast an host around Jericho for six days were adapted with infinite wisdom to overawe the Canaanites. We can fancy the fear which kept growing up for those six days within the city, which took on new alarms at the unusual succession of these silent marches on the seventh day, and which made the hearts of the idolaters to melt and become as water indeed when that great shout of faith rent the air and seemed to crumble the very walls to dust. If the Israelites had only fought a little more humanly, the Canaanites might have hoped; what hope dared they encourage before these men who brought with them a superhuman history, and then gave the history vivid realism by these superhuman methods? The very air through the whole week must have felt increasingly awful in the noiseless and tremulous suspense which, as the stillness preceding a tropical storm, silently heralded the coming God. And the strategy which was so divinely wise to conquer the Canaanites through fear, was not less adapted to subdue the Israelites through wonder and joy and love. God's way with the idolaters was wise; but His real war was with the Israelites, and that was not less wise. No one can think of lack of adaptation, much less entertain the idea of absurdity, who pauses sufficiently to understand where the real brunt of the battle lay. The world still goes on with its intelligent criticisms, passed now on the Gospel and the Church; and it not seldom misses its way altogether through failing to understand what God is about, and where His conflict is meant to bear. Men approach Calvary from a mental and scientific standpoint, and take their observations in the light of systematic theology; the strategy of the cross is directed to the conscience, and while it has enough of "sweet reasonableness" to make a feint upon the mind, its heavier and real movements are ever made upon the heart. Men discuss "the foolishness of preaching," and make merry over what they call the truth of the apostolic description; they do not heed that the larger half of God's battle may be with the proud hearts which have to cry, "Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel," and with the discontented spirits who have to hear. They do not know that mere intellectualism may be but a proud parade in mental uniform, and that, to some natures, it needs as much humility and grace to preach a good sermon as it might have needed, under the pretence of military genius, to march for six days around Jericho. These are but indications; but everywhere men are misreading God's plan of battle, and forgetting that half of His war is to take captive, through severe discipline and surprising successes, the men who are named "His people," but whom He is wishing to see more entirely His own. He could overawe the world with a word, if that were all; instead of that, He is designing that men should choose Him and love Him for what He is, and, humbling themselves everywhere to prefer His will to their own, glorify Him for what He does.

2. God would have His servants feel that they need as much trial to bear victory as they could possibly realize even in defeat. In heaven we may be able to bear triumphs without preparation; on earth we need go to victory so as to provoke the scorn of our foes, lest our victory should be even worse than defeat. In our defeats, God's plan is to lead us through defeat straight to victory, lest we be discouraged; in our victories, His way is to lead us to success through paths of shame and weariness, lest victory be the most utter defeat of all. Thus does He contrive everywhere to make His people "more than conquerors."

III. The splendour of Divine triumphs.

1. God's victories are openly won before the eyes of men, but no eye sees the process. Of old, and not less now, he saps the walls silently, and undermines them secretly. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

2. God's victories are preceded by an unaccountable feeling of expectation. Jericho held its breath in awe; Israel marched on in outward silence, but inwardly was full of the joy of anticipated triumph. On both sides, human consciousness was acknowledging the approach of its Maker. So has it been in many of the revivals of the Church. 3. When God begins to fight, His triumphs admit of no question. Human fortifications simply serve to shew Divine prowess.

4. The victories of God are each preliminary to triumph which is final, and to conquest which is universal. This first victory at Jericho contemplated nothing less than the possession of all Canaan. Thus it is also in the kingdom of Christ; the cross contemplates a last enemy, pronounces that that enemy "shall be destroyed," and says of the greater JOSHUA, "He shall reign for ever and ever."

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos .—THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUE SERVANT.

In the opening verses of this chapter we have the record of the Divine commands which were given to Joshua concerning the siege of Jericho. In these verses which follow, we see the impression made on Joshua's mind by the vision with which he was favoured, and by the words which he heard.

I. The true servant gives reverent attention to that which his Lord says. Joshua seems not to have lost a word, or to have forgotten anything which he was commanded. He was not so absorbed in the glory of the Divine Presence as to forget the importance of the Divine message. Joshua did not lack reverence; he bowed low before the majesty of God, and "fell on his face to the earth." Joshua could not but feel the greatness of the honour done to himself in this visit so graciously made to him by his Lord. He at once accepted the subordinate position, and said to his Divine Commander, "What said my Lord unto His servant?" Joshua's profound reverence did not distract his attention, and his sense of the honour conferred upon him by God did not take shape in conduct which would prave him unworthy of such honour. There is not a word in the chapter to show that Joshua proclaimed to the people the fact that he had been favoured with this vision; he may have communicated it to the officers, but even of that nothing is said. Certainly no parade of this distinctive honour appears to have been made.

1. He serves well who accepts his Lord's distinctive favours as a stimulus to work, rather than as giving an occasion for display. God's honours cannot but delight His people, but the man who receives honour to parade it assuredly does not use it as God would have him. Whatever of truth there may be in those lines of one of Dr. Watts's noblest hymns, in which he says,

"But favourites of the Heavenly King

May speak their joys abroad;"

many have felt this exultant note of joy in favouritism was not written in that higher and nobler mood which best becomes those who love the Lord. Given that the doctrine represents nothing but the truth, the spirit of that single note jars painfully through the otherwise exalted harmony of the whole hymn. Our distinctive favours are to help us in service rather than in song; they are rather for meditation than for exhibition; they are not so much for others as for ourselves.

2. He worships well who so adores the Divine glory as to endeavour to magnify it yet more. We are not to be so absorbed in our visions, and so taken up with our more ecstatio moments of fellowship with God, as to let them end only in communion. The glory of the Lord must never take away our attention from His commandments. Even Saul of Tarsus, ere he became a servant indeed, cried out under the bright light which revealed to him the presence and majesty of the Son of God, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" So Joshua, the obedient man of many years, asks at once from his prostrate position of adoration, "What saith my Lord unto His servant?" It is not enough to exult in God's glory as seen in nature, as seen in His attributes and word, or as seen in the character of Jesus Christ; the best reverence we can pay to Him is, while we worship, to hide His words in our hearts. That is the first step in the way to victory.

II. The true servant faithfully makes known the words of the Lord to his fellows. The verses in which Joshua speaks to the people are so very like the verses in which the Lord speaks to Joshua, that they sound like a mere recapitulation. This is as it should be.

1. Our human imaginings are not to be put instead of Divine words. What we think is not even to be added to what God says, with any view of perfecting His plan or supplying His omissions. Joshua had been the general of this army for forty years, and out of his large experience he could readily have made suggestions for the attack, which would have commended themselves to the people; he merely tells them what God has said. He alters nothing, and he does but amplify in order to explain and enforce that which he has heard. Such is the spirit of all true preaching.

2. Our human apologies or excuses are never needed for Divine words, and are always out of place. If ever an apologetic tone in reiterating God's words were allowable, surely it would have been here. This military order was so strange. The people had seen something of war, and had some experience in war; and this command to march round a fortified city in silence for six days, and to shout at the close of the seventh circuit on the seventh day, must certainly have had a peculiar sound. Joshua does not explain the command; he does not even add a word to remind them that God had lately so revealed Himself in the dividing of the Jordan, that however strange might be His precepts, He had a right to unquestioning obedience. Joshua simply tells what he has heard, and bids the people do it. That is all that this faithful servant has to say on the matter. This was very beautiful in Joshua the soldier. It was like saying, "Obey orders, and ask no questions." It was accepting the orders of his own Commander implicitly; and it was the right method to adopt, if he would have his soldiers obey their commander. This spirit was even more admirable in Joshua the servant; it was as though he should say to himself, "Who am I to suggest aught of excuse for the Lord?" This spirit, also, is a pre-requisite for victory. Our preaching must have no additions to the Gospel, and no apologies for the strange ways of Divine mercy and love. Pardon without penance may sound peculiar, atonement through blood may appear both awful and strange, victory through faith may not seem the fittest way of triumph to us; perhaps he will honour God best, and lead most of his fellows to salvation, who simply tells out the story as it is. The philosophy of the cross is not the secret of its triumph, and preaching about the Gospel may be ever so different from preaching the Gospel itself. It is well that some should "explain the way of the Lord," no doubt; yet the exposition of Divine truth should ever be given in the spirit of its enforcement. The tone of apology, however; must always be as offensive to God as it is injurious to men. The way to victory is not that way.

III. The true servant not only hears attentively, and reiterates faithfully; he also obeys promptly. Sometimes, in our prayers, we plead before God as David did—"Do as Thou hast said." If we would have God do as He has said, we must do as He has said also. Joshua looks forward in faith to victory, but only through promptly obeying the Divine word. When we can lose our way and will in the way and will of God as Joshua did here, we shall not be far removed from triumphs similar to his. As we become perfect in the spirit of serving the Lord, so shall we become more than conquerors over the world.

Jos .—THE SILENT AND DILIGENT SERVICE OF MEN PRELIMINARY TO THE MANIFEST WORKING OF GOD.

I. The silence of obedience. There are places where we are commanded to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Where speech might have been murmuring, and thus rebellion, "Aaron held his peace."

II. The silence of humility. When the Lord fights for us, it best becomes us to let all men see that the battle is not ours, but His. As Mackintosh has said, "No one would think of bringing a lighted candle to add brightness to the sun at mid-day; and yet the man who would do so might well be accounted wise, in comparison with him who attempts to assist God by his bustling officiousness.… The only possible effect of human efforts is to raise a dust which obscures the view of God's salvation."

"God doth not need

Either man's work, or His own gifts: who best

Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed,

And post o'er land and ocean without rest;

They also serve, who only stand and wait."

Milton's Sonnets.

"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him."

III. The silence of patience. They who serve God can well afford to wait. The walls which fall not on the sixth day, will yet give way on the seventh. He who can only work when success is manifest, is but a poor servant; and he who can only fight in the hour of evident victory, is not worthy of the name of soldier. How the Saviour waited during those thirty long years ere He began His work! Speaking of Him in that period, F. W. Robertson said, "A mere man—a weak, emotional man of spasmodic feeling—a hot enthusiast—would have spoken out at once, and at once been crushed. The Everlasting Word Incarnate bided His own time,—‘Mine hour is not yet come;' matured His energies, condensed them by repression; and then He went forth to speak and do and suffer. His hour was come. This is strength—the power of a Divine silence, the strong will to keep force till it is wanted, the power to wait God's time." Not less patiently did Christ wait after His work commenced. He knew how to pass through the midst of wrathful men, who sought to cast Him from the brow of the hill at Nazareth on the very day when He began His ministry, and yet not to be discouraged. He could endure to say, "The Son of man hath not where to lay His head," and not only to say that, but to feel the bitterness of such rejection as none but He could feel it, and yet to continue His silent and holy service. He could bear to know that "neither did His brethren believe on Him," and still work. He could see one apostle waiting in weakness to deny Him, and another in malice already on the way to betray Him, and then, glancing back over His apparently fruitless ministry, say to the eleven, "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." He could enter into the agony of Gethsemane, expire amid the hootings of a nation who crowned their rejection of Him on Golgotha, pass into the darkness of the tomb, and emerging thence say even to the disciples who had all forsaken Him and fled, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." Though despised and rejected of men, He commanded them to wait for the promise of the Father in the very place where men would have said failure was most apparent; and when that promise of the Father came, they were to arise and preach the Gospel among all nations, "beginning at Jerusalem." There is nothing that preaches to us, "Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psa , Marg.), as does the Lord's own life. In its beginnings, throughout its duration, and in its earthly end, that Life seems to spend itself in telling out with Divine force the word of the ancient prophet—"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."

IV. The silence of faith. Silence is a time of power, not of weakness. T. T. Lynch has told us that

"In silence, mighty things are wrought;"

and, similarly, another,

"How grand is silence! In her tranquil deeps

What mighty things are born!"

and Faber—"When God spake all things into being, the everlasting silence remained unbroken. No stir was seen, no commotion felt. The starting into life of ten thousand times ten thousand millions of angels from the deep abyss of eternity, created no noise. The creation of millions upon millions of worlds, by the fiat of His matchless power, was done in noiselessness and peace." Man may need commotion and disturbance to assure him that work is being done, silence is sufficient for God; and sometimes, as here around Jericho, God asks His children to believe, although there is nothing but Himself on which their faith can rest. When His children do thus rest in faith, they are content to walk on in the same silence out of which God so loves to evolve His mightiest works.

V. The silence of expectation and awe. We feel as if this very shout must have had, almost within it, a silence intense, profound, and absolutely awful. In his "Battle of the Baltic," when the fleets of England and Denmark had met, and were about to engage, Campbell sells us,

"There was silence deep as death;

And the boldest held his breath,

For a time:

When each gun

From its adamantine lips

Spread a death-shade round the ships,

Like the hurricane eclipse

Of the sun."

So intense and terrible do we feel the silence must have been which preceded, and which again immediately succeeded this fear-filling shout from six hundred thousand believing men. When they had thus given Jehovah's chosen sign for His own working to commence, what would God do?—the God who had made a path through the sea, and divided the Jordan; how would He begin His war on Jericho? Joshua knew how; but had he told the people? It seems not; and yet all Israel must have felt that this was the crisis. How would Omnipotence declare itself? We can almost feel, even now, the bated breath that made silence painful ere that shout was given, and the yet more awful stillness, coupled as it would be with intense gazing and terrible expectation, which abruptly followed—so abruptly, perhaps, that all straggling sounds of single lingering voices were choked back in the solemn hush that fell like a spell upon the host. What would God do now? And then, almost as they ask that silent question, the walls fall in upon themselves, a cloud of dust arises right round the city, another solemn stillness succeeds the murmur of awe among the Israelites which the sight had involuntarily provoked; the cloud clears away, fear and pain have taken hold upon the fleeing idolaters; then the trumpets of the priests suddenly sound forth in the midst of the hosts of Israel, and the army of the Lord charges on the devoted city on all sides at once, and proceeds to execute the terrible ban of cherem in slaughter and burning.

If such be the temporal punishment of sin, what must be its final judgment? If such be the awe gathering around the overthrow of one guilty city, what of those moments when the hosts of the wicked of all time stand before the judgment seat of Christ? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." In that day it shall again be said, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God."

Jos .

I. The first day of obedient service on the part of the Lord's people. No murmurings are recorded as having been uttered against doing a meaningless task. In days like these, no desertions occur from the army of the Lord to the side of the Lord's enemies. Contempt and scorn would hardly be felt by those who had seen the mercy of Jehovah in the dividing of the river. Rest must have been sweet on the night succeeding this day's toil; it was the rest of obedience overshadowed by mercies which were hardly past, and made refreshing by promises almost fulfilled.

II. The first day of more direct and solemn warning to the Lord's enemies. The general warnings of Providence and Scripture will have a day in which they will begin to assume definite shape to every man who has not repented of sin (cf. Mat ). AS with the inhabitants of Jericho and Jerusalem, so must it be to all who fear not God. The day will come in which dispersed threatenings will be seen concentrating themselves for judgment.

The warnings of one day are very like those of another; even when they are most solemn, it is possible to become almost comfortably familiar with them. On the morning of the seventh day the men of Jericho had perhaps learned to say to each other almost pleasantly, "All things continue they were from the beginning."

It is significant, however, that we have no single word of record to guide us as to the feeling which prevailed in Jericho from this first day of compassing the city to the day when it fell. Not so much as a sound of either scorn or fear reaches us to tell us what these men felt. All seems purposely shut off in the darkness of oblivion. What a picture of many other deaths, and how like the speechless stillness which follows them! As yet, eternity gives no sign.

Jos . JERICHO TAKEN.

"

I. The city which was to be taken. Jericho was a city of great antiquity and importance. It was inclosed by walls so considerable that houses were built upon them (chap. Jos ), while the spoil that was found in it is an evidence of its opulence. When the tribes made their encampment in Gilgal, the inhabitants caused the city to be straitly shut up, so that "none went out and none came in." But they could not shut out God. There are no gates and bars that can stand against Him. How vainly they reckon who leave God out of their calculations! When He is with us, no opposing host can harm us; but when He is against us, no earthly walls can protect us.

II. The means by which it was taken. These were very peculiar.…

1. There was no natural fitness in the means to produce the end designed.

2. The means employed were such as would provoke the ridicule of the besieged.

3. The means employed produced no effect whatever for six days, nor even on the seventh, until the shout was raised at the last.

III. The disposition that was to be made of the city. It was to be accursed, or devoted, to God. The Israelites in destroying the inhabitants of Jericho and the Canaanites generally, were but the instruments in God's hand of carrying out His sentence.

LESSONS:

1. Retribution though long delayed comes at last. God's judgments have leaden feet, and so they come slowly; but they have iron hands, and so they strike deadly when they come.

2. Faith does what God says, and asks no questions.

3. At the sound of the trumpets of the priests, the walls of Jericho fell down. By the preaching of the Gospel the strongholds of sin and Satan are to be overthrown.

4. Let us not be impatient of results when we are doing God's commands.

5. Success in our working for God is His doing, not ours, and so the whole glory of it should be given to Him." [William Taylor, D.D.]

Jos .

I. God gives His servants success when they are prepared for it, and as they are able to bear it. A London minister, whose work for the past nine years has been marked by great prosperity, recently made the following statement at a public meeting: "With the first church over which I was called to preside, I spent four years in what seemed an almost fruitless ministry. I think I preached as fervently then as I preach now, and I prayed for God's blessing with all my heart. I looked for success, and week by week announced times at which I would meet enquirers, but none came. I prayed till prayer became an agony within me; still there were no converts. On one Sunday evening I made a special effort to win souls to Christ. All through the preceding week I pleaded, as though I were pouring out my very soul, for a blessing on that service. I prepared, as far as I knew how, simply with a view to conversion. On the evening before the service in question, I went into a field at the back of the chapel, and again, with tears, I besought God to save some. I gave out that I would meet enquirers at the close of the service; not one came either then or afterwards as the fruit of that appeal. Eight years ago," said the speaker, "I preached the same sermon in what was then my new sphere of labour, and ninety-seven persons joined the Church, who traced their conversion to that one discourse." The minister concluded by saying, "I think that in my four years of fruitless labour the Lord was enabling me to bear present success, and getting me in a fit mind to endure the large measure of prosperity with which I have been cheered for the past nine years."

II. When God gives His servants success, He ever gives it to their faith alone, and yet never bestows it without their work. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down," but they did not fall till "after they had been compassed about seven days." Works are of no use, as is most manifest in this siege, yet God will give no blessing without the works. Some might say, "That is the precise point in dispute between Paul and James; Paul tells us that we must have faith, and James that we must have works." True, they do say that; but there is no dispute between Paul and James. Paul says that we are justified by faith, meaning, of course, a good faith; and James does but assure us that that only is a good and real faith which has works. Perhaps the late F. W. Robertson's illustration gives one of the best definitions of the difference and agreement between the two apostles: "Suppose I say, ‘A tree cannot be struck without thunder:' that is true, for there is never destructive lightning without thunder. But, again, if I say, ‘The tree was struck by lightning without thunder:' that is true too, if I mean that the lightning alone struck it, without the thunder striking it. Yet read the two assertions, and they seem contradictory. So in the same way, St. Paul says, ‘Faith justifies without works;' that is, faith alone is that which justifies us, not works. But St. James says, ‘Not a faith which is without works.' There will be works with faith, as there is thunder with lightning, but just as it is not the thunder, but the lightning (the lightning without the thunder), that strikes the tree, so it is not the works which justify. Put it in one sentence,—faith alone justifies, but not the faith which is alone. Lightning alone strikes, but not the lightning which is alone, without thunder; for that is only summer lightning, and harmless." The works of the Israelites before Jericho stood in the same relation to the fall of the walls. The works accomplished absolutely nothing; by faith the walls fell down: it is equally true that the faith would have been as powerless as the works, had it not been accompanied by the works. Our faith alone is effectual to command the help of God; but if our faith is alone, as having no works, it is not a faith which God will accept.


Verses 17-19

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . The city shall be accursed] Heb. Cherem. Absolute devotion to God is here meant. Every devoted thing was to be set apart as consecrated to Him, and every devoted person was to be put to death: neither could be redeemed (of. Lev 27:28-29; Deu 7:25-26).

Jos . But all the silver and gold, etc.] These had to pass "through the fire," and probably to be molten and re-cast (Num 31:21-23).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos

DEVOTED THINGS

The word "accursed," which is used in this passage, does not so well represent the meaning of the Hebrew "cherem" as the word "devoted," given in the margin. To our English ears, the former word is apt to convey an idea of anger and cursing, which is not contained in the original. The "devoted" persons or things, among the Israelites, wore persons or things doomed to destruction, or cut off from common uses in perpetual consecration to the use or service of God. The idea of votive offerings was not confined to the Jews; it runs, more or less conspicuously, through all human history, and is particularly prominent in that of the Romans. The ancients believed that the life of one man might be ransomed by the death of another, or that even a national boon might be purchased by such a sacrifice; hence such legends as that of Curtius, who is said to have "devoted" himself for the good of Rome by riding into the chasm which had opened in the Forum. It is said that devotion to any particular person was unknown among the Romans till the time of Augustus. "The day after the title of Augustus had been conferred upon Octavius, Pacuvius, a tribune of the people, publicly declared that he would devote himself to Augustus, and obey him at the expense of his life, should he be so commanded. This example of flattery was immediately followed by all the rest, till at length it became an established custom never to go to salute the Emperor without declaring that they were devoted to him." It may thus readily be seen through what process the idea of devoting one's self lost its former sacrificial, or at least solemn, import, till it became a mere hyperbole of social flattery, and presently, also, a form of speech to indicate strictness of attention to any business profession or pursuit. To this day, the very word of the Israelites is perpetuated in the East, the Turkish word harem coming, through the Arabic, from the Hebrew cherem. The Old Testament has many allusions to the practice of devoting things or persons to the Lord; and even in the New Testament, we find Paul devoting his hair at Cenchrea, saying that for the sake of his kinsmen in the flesh he could wish himself accursed ( ἀνάθεμα) from Christ, and proclaiming any preacher of "another gospel," and, elsewhere, any man who should "love not the Lord Jesus Christ," to be anathema. Much obscurity gathers round the whole subject. The following questions will indicate some of the difficulties. Who was authorised to put men and things under the ban of devotion; might God alone do this, or might men also do it? If men might devote things, what men were qualified to pronounce the ban? Could a man pronounce the possessions of another to be devoted, or could he merely place his own under ban? Could one person devote another? What was the effect of the ban? Did it invariably involve the death of persons, and the destruction of all things not indestructible? Might the devotion be partial, as is seemingly the case in the instances of Samuel and Samson, and if partial, would this still be called cherem? These are some of the questions raised by this solemn and involved subject.

JERICHO DEVOTED

The claim that this city should be devoted was made by God, was most solemnly enjoined on all Israel, and was still more solemnly enforced by the death of Achan. What did God intend to teach men by this claim? The mere surroundings of the case are local and temporary; the principles of deep spiritual teaching, which are indicated by the solemnity of the case, were surely meant to be eternal.

I. In the wars of the Lord, the only right which there may be to any spoils is the right of the Lord Himself. The Israelites, and all God's people subsequently, were to learn that. God puts out His Hand, in this very first battle, and says, in effect, "The spoils of victory are all Mine." Israel was to take nothing, and the stern penalty of disobedience was death. Such is the measure of the Divine claim on the Church of Christ. Like the Israelites, we are but redeemed slaves, they having been delivered from Egypt, and we from a harder bondage. Everything which we may win in the spiritual conflict belongs to the Lord. To each one of us He says, "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price."

1. We are not to Serve the Saviour merely for what we can get. Archbishop Secker used to say, "God has three sorts of servants in the world: some are slaves, and serve Him from fear; others are hirelings, and serve for wages; and the last are sons, who serve because they love." How are we putting our hands to the work of Christ? IS it from fear? Do we merely seek to gain a name, a place, a measure of the world's respect, and a possession in personal peace; or do we love Him to whom we owe liberty and all we have? He has devoted Himself for us. Look into the cradle at Bethlehem—that manger cradle—and you see there a devoted body; it is the cherem of His humanity, in which He gave Himself for us. See Him in the ministry, toiling now, and now saying, "The Son of man hath not where to lay His head;" that ministry is the cherem of His devotion in service. Regard Him as one "who did no sin;" and this cutting off unto manifest holiness has reference to His disciples, of whom he says, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself." Contemplate Him in the sorrow of Gethsemane, when "being in an agony He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground;" that was His devotion of Himself to men in spiritual suffering. Think of Calvary, where He poured out His soul unto death, and crowned even His sacrifice in the cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" there, says His apostle, He was "made a curse for us; for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.'" Surely when we see the Saviour's gift of Himself for our redemption, we might serve from some higher motives than those of fear and gain, and freely own that what we are, what we have, and all we may win through His power and love, belong not unto us, but unto the Lord.

2. Where God causes us to triumph, we are not to claim the glory. The rights are all God's. He does but put His Hand on the whole of Jericho as indicating the measure of spoil and honour which ever belong to Himself. When Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself, and said, "This is great Babylon which I have builded," he was driven out among the beasts to become as one of them: it was but God's other way of saying, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but this man doth not know, neither doth he consider." The man who was more ungrateful than the beasts, God drove forth among the beasts. It is said that Pope John 21. built for himself a noble chamber in the palace of Viterbo, and that he was crushed to death by the falling in of the roof, which he vaingloriously admired. Dean Milman says of the occurrence: "John was contemplating with too great pride the work of his own hands, and burst out into laughter; when, at that instant, the avenging roof came down upon his head." That is ever the result, when we are foolishly taken up in our own work, and are found glorying in it as something which we have done. Our very self-esteem, like Achan's selfishness, has a way of making us cherem. When we can come to the knowledge of what belongeth unto God in no better way, the very consequences of our misappropriation become vocal, and say, "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

II. God, to whom all the spoils in life's conflicts belong as a matter of right, gives us much for ourselves, and claims only the firstfruits.

1. God does not claim all. He puts no other city under ban like this, but simply requires Jericho. God has thought for the homage due unto His name, but more thought still for His people's welfare: He would claim one city, they should have many. This has ever been the way of Divine mercy. God has thought for the poor. He only claims from men according to their ability (cf. Lev ). God has thought for the busy. He merely demands one day in seven. God has thought for men in the weakness which leads them to serve in view of rewards. He does not shut men out from these lower motives. The Saviour, who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," graciously stimulates men by thoughts of the pain and loss which they can avoid in being His disciples, and by thoughts of peace and joy and heaven which they can make their own by cleaving to Him. There is a legend of Bishop Ivo in which he is described as meeting one day a figure in the form of a woman, of a sad and earnest aspect, like some prophetess of God, who carried a vessel of fire in one hand, and of water in the other. He asked her what these things were for. She answered, "The fire is to burn up Paradise, and the water is to quench Hell, that men may henceforth serve their Maker, not from the selfish hope of the one, nor from the selfish fear of the other, but from the love of Himself alone." The Lord, who knoweth our frame, neither burns paradise nor quenches hell; knowing the weakness and poverty of our love, He mercifully plies us with fear, and entices us with hope. How graciously He answers Peter's poor commercial question, in Mat 19:27-29. He says at one time, "Fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell;" at another, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." So God thought for the Israelites of old: in the siege of Jericho He claimed all; yet might they fight, even there, with the thought of other cities in which the sp il should be entirely their own.

2. God, who does not everywhere claim all, nevertheless claims the firstfruits. This was so in warfare, and it was so in the matter of harvest. Men too often give God only the remnants of their life: they pour their strength out in business, and call Sunday a rest; they serve the world in youth and in the prime of life, and become religious in old age. God complains of this: He requires "the first of all the firstfruits of all things."

III. Our services and offerings to God are not to enrich Him, but to bring more wealth to ourselves. Jericho was nothing to God: all its riches were nothing; and He who abhors human sacrifices, and has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, could have no delight in this shedding of blood.

1. God does not command our offerings to meet any sense of want in Himself. He cannot but be independent of all that we can bring. He who created us, and all that we have, cannot suffer need where our service fails.

2. That which we can give, or be, or do for God, is commanded because it will help us. The giving of money for the poor, or for religious work, is but the Divine way of cultivating our compassion, our sympathy, and our sincerity. Our deeds and our worship are required not merely for the honour of God and the help of our fellows, but for the exercise of our spiritual faculties. As without exercise our limbs and our physical powers would fail and die, so it is with our faith, and compassion, and love. Think of the heritage of unselfishness, and of loving God so as to cost us something. If we are giving nothing and doing nothing for the Saviour, we are robbing no one so much as ourselves. The fraudulent railway passenger may say to himself, "I have travelled all those miles, and paid nothing." He forgets how much he has paid out of his self-respect and his integrity; he little thinks that he has been spending a vast amount of his manhood, and of his moral life. That man had better have opened a vein and given blood for his fare; he has cheated a railway company at the cost of draining away the life of his soul. The people who try to get to heaven by the process of avoiding all collections, and all forms of work, seem to reckon on having a very inexpensive journey: they may get to heaven; let us hope so; but they forget how very little of themselves will be left to enter in when they arrive. The man who goes on for forty years spending himself in order to save his belongings, may, when he dies, leave a great substance behind him; he will carry very little with him; so little, it may be, that the angels will not find enough of him left to take home at all. No man can withhold that which he ought to give, or do, for Christ, without being fined very heavily in his soul's life.

IV. God's claim on men is for a reasonable measure of devotedness in them, or for the utter devoting of them.

1. Those who love God are not taxed unreasonably. God only asks Jericho for winning all Canaan; He does but ask of us a "reasonable service."

2. Those who love not God enough to devote themselves to Him, are ever tending to the time when they must be devoted by Him. The end of idolatry is to be made cherem. It matters not whether our idols are rude as those of the ancient Canaanites, or take more modern forms. It makes no difference whether we bear the name of the Lord's people, or men call us worldly (cf. Deu ). Even in the New Testament, the end of not being the Saviour's disciples indeed is to be made cherem: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema when the Lord cometh."

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos . (I.) THE MEMORY OF THE LORD.

I. The Lord's remembrance of man's sin. This command to slaughter the Canaanites was not given in order that room might be made for the Israelites. God's eye looked back over the eight or nine centuries in which these children of Canaan had been strewing the short path of their national history with many and aggravated sins. They had been heaping up wrath against the day of wrath, therefore was it that God said, "The city shall be devoted." Many years later the Divine voice is heard saying to the ten tribes, "They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before My face."

1. God remembers sin in all its forms, and not merely conventional sin. Men agree to call certain trangressions sinful, to the exclusion of others; God deals with all sins alike. He has no favouritism in iniquity.

2. God remembers, nevertheless, the different degrees of sin. Some men are "sinners before the Lord exceedingly," as were the Sodomites, and God remembers the excessive forms which sin has taken. Men like Jeroboam and Ahab are singled out for prominence in wickedness.

3. God remembers sin till it is forgiven, and not till then does He say, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." The only Lethe of forgetfulness for the guilt of men is "the fountain open for sin and uncleanness" by Jesus Christ. Till sin is washed away there, God will remember it and men must.

4. God remembers no man's sins in vain. Moses dies on Nebo because God has not forgotten; and, notwithstanding the lapse of four hundred years, God says to Saul, "I remember that which Amalek did to Israel.… Now go and smite Amalek" (cf. 1Sa ).

II. The Lord's remembrance of His own promises. In this slaughter at Jericho, Joshua is seen acting, not alone, but working together with God for the salvation of Rahab. In the covenant made with this woman:

1. The fulfilment is equal to the promise. In point of value the one is as the other.

2. It is a fulfilment in detail: "She and all that are with her."

3. The fulfilment has regard to the conditions which were made—"all that are with her in the house" (cf. chap. Jos ).

III. The Lord's remembrance of human faith and service. No one believes in the Lord ever so little, and then has to find that his trust is disregarded. Rahab in Jericho, the Syrophenician woman in the borders of Tyre and Sidon, or the thief upon the cross, it matters not which; none is too lowly, too vile, or too much a stranger to the covenants of promise, to believe in vain. Even the feeble faith of the woman who stole through the crowd to touch the hem of the Saviour's garment could not be kept secret: she too had to see that faith could not be hidden. God sees the smallest act of faith, let it come whence it may. So does God see the smallest act of service done for His people. Not only did Joshua know that Rahab "hid the messengers," but Jehovah knew it also, and kept the woman's house from falling. God would not suffer even the vain Nebuchadnezzar to serve against Tyrus, without noticing how "every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled," and then giving him Egypt as wages for himself and his army. Certainly we cannot give even the cup of cold water in His name, and for His people, and then lose our reward.

Jos . (II.) THE FORETHOUGHT OF THE LORD.

I. Divine knowledge of the force of temptation. The gold and the Babylonish garments might be solemnly devoted, but the Lord knew they would glitter temptingly notwithstanding. He who taught us to pray, Lead us not into temptation, well knows how much such prayer is needed by us each.

II. Divine acquaintance with human weakness. "Keep yourselves from the devoted thing." The Lord accurately measures not only the pressure from without, but the power of resistance also.

III. Divine anticipations of human sin. Men may say, "Is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing?" but God loves us enough to speak plainly. He shews us that in His estimation our danger is real. If the warnings of Scripture were not inwardly felt to be so necessary, they might awaken our indignation; but the silence of even the infidels on this point is given in contribution to a general faith that the Bible is right.

IV. Divine solicitude for man's salvation.

1. God is solicitous for men individually. He is concerned for each of us, lest we should make ourselves accursed.

2. God is solicitous for men collectively. He is concerned lest the camp of Israel should be made a curse. No man is so isolated as to be away from God's thought and care, and no host is so large as to outreach His love.

Jos . (III.) THE CLAIMS OF THE LORD.

I. God literally asserts His right to claim all that which is His due. At Jericho He demands everything. This is not usual; it was done to impress men with the vastness of God's rights, and to remind them of the grace of His ordinary dealings.

II. God symbolically asserts His claim to man's holiness in everything. Gold would naturally be looked upon as one of the most carnal of possesions. It was to be shewn that even this could be set apart, and made to be "holiness unto the Lord" (cf. Zec ).

III. God graciously shews that His most exacting claims are made from a generous interest in men. These things were to enrich the treasury of the Lord, that the house and service of the Lord might be more precious in the sight of men.


Verse 20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . Before the Lord] The Ark is now taken as the symbol of the Divine presence, just as the Pillar of Cloud had been formerly.

Jos . The armed men went before] These are thought to have been the chosen men of the two and a half tribes. "The chalutz, or ‘selected troops,' went before the Ark, and the measseph, or ‘massed troops,' followed the Ark." [Crosby.]

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos ; Jos 6:20

THE FALL OF JERICHO

In looking at the general features of this attack on Jericho, and of the overthrow of the city, there are three things specially prominent:—

I. The significance of the typical formul. Certain forms were very minutely and emphatically commanded by God for the direction of Joshua and the people. These are defined with so much care and precision, and urged in detail so particularly, that they cannot be passed by as insignificant. What were they meant to teach? What would God impress upon the Israelites by these unusual and conspicuous methods of attack?

1. Here is a repeated and very marked introduction of the number seven. There are seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days for the continuance of the siege, one journey round the city each day, making seven daily circuits, and then seven circuits on the last day. The long blast of the trumpets, the great shout of the people, and the sudden falling of the walls, were to immediately succeed this seventh circuit thus made on the seventh day. When we remember that God was avowedly teaching His people by outward signs, it is impossible to regard all this as empty repetition. We should endeavour to ascertain the meaning and force of this use of the number to these Israelites; then, striking off any differences between their outward circumstances and our own, the principles which remain will be the Divine teaching to us. Kitto, Keil, Bhr, and Hengstenberg all agree that this use of the number seven had reference to the covenant between Jehovah and Israel. Dr. Kitto points out very fully that this number has ever had remarkable prominence in many nations besides that of the Jews, and thinks that "the one great fact in which all this originated is the work of creation in seven days." Several of the following illustrations are from Kitto's remarks on the subject. Grimm says, "Even at the present day the number seven is curiously regarded in Germany in matters of evidence." In England we have seven years' parliaments. Leases of farms and houses are drawn for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years. Persons come of age at thrice seven years. The transportation of criminals, the indentures of apprenticeship, and other similar matters, have had reference to the number seven. These cases have each to do with legal covenants and transactions. "Among the gifts with which Agamemnon proposed to seal a covenant of peace with Achilles, Homer speaks of

‘Seven tripods, unsullied yet with fire,'

and further on, of seven female captives, skilled in domestic arts, the latter especially intended as an atonement-offering to the wrathful hero." It is said that "among the ancient Arabians, when men pledged their faith to each other by oath, blood, drawn from an incision near the mid-finger of the contracting parties, was sprinkled upon seven stones, placed between them, and while this was done, they called upon their gods." "In the Hebrew language, as in the Sanscrit, the words for ‘an oath' and for ‘seven' are the same. In the former language, Sheba has that twofold meaning; hence the question whether the name Beer-sheba, where Abraham and Abimelech confirmed their covenant by a solemn oath, means ‘the well of the oath,' or ‘the well of seven,' or ‘seven wells.' If, in this remarkable instance, we dispense with the allusion in the name to the number seven, that number is still present; for before the oath was uttered, Abraham set apart seven ewe lambs in so marked a manner as to attract the inquiries of the king, to whom the patriarch answered, ‘These seven ewe lambs shalt thou take at my hand, that they may be a witness unto me that I have digged this well.'" So Balak builds for Balaam seven altars in order to secure a covenant with their gods for a curse on Israel. Asa and Hezekiah, in after years, each brings his offerings in sevens, to renew the national covenant before the Lord. Naaman dips seven times in Jordan. This prominence given to this particular number is seen running not less conspicuously through the Jewish rites and sacrifices. "The altar itself, at its original establishment, was to be consecrated for seven days to render it most holy. A young animal was not held fit for sacrifice until it had remained seven days with its dam; and so likewise the male child, among the Hebrews, was, after seven days, that is, on the eighth day, consecrated to the Lord by circumcision." By referring to a concordance, these instances will be seen to be only a few among many which go to illustrate the sacredness attached to this number by the Jews both before and after this siege of Jericho.

While fanciful meanings are to be deprecated, there can be no possible doubt that, in this attack on Jericho, God designed to call the attention of the Jews to His covenant. They were to go up to this battle, and to all of which this was meant to be a pattern, remembering the oath of the Lord to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So, in all our conflicts, we are to fight in sight of the promises, most of all remembering "the blood of the everlasting covenant," by which alone we can be victorious, (a) Do we work for the salvation of our fellows in view of God's unfailing word? Is the work of parents for their children, of teachers for their classes, of ministers for their congregations, sufficiently carried on in the light of covenanted blessing? Do we not often go in our own strength to battles in which we can only hope to succeed as we go in the strength of the Lord? In vulgar phrase, it is "number one," and not "number seven," that we emblazon on our banners; it is about our poor weak personality that we hang our expectations, instead of resting on the sure word of Jehovah. How some of the old prophets were wont to cry, "For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it!" No matter what was to be done, if they could only say that: it might be the captivity of a whole nation at Babylon, or a return from such a captivity; it might be a cradle at Bethlehem, a cross on Calvary, and a Redeemer for the whole world; if they could only say, "The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it," their utterance was ever given in the energy of faith and in the unhesitating tones of triumph. If we only went to our work and conflicts with all our hopes, like this army of Israelites, gathering about a covenant centre, we should not so often be talking about our own weakness, or about the hopeless wickedness of those whom we seek to win for the Saviour. The very fact that we are so disheartened at our own feebleness, or at the difficulty of the work which we are seeking to compass, says, as plainly as it well could be said, that we have scarcely so much as given the covenant a thought, much less our trust. (b) Are we bearing our sufferings through faith in Divine words? Is "number one," or is "number seven," the more conspicuous here? (c) Are we seeking to subdue personal sin, having all our hopes of victory gathering about what the mouth of the Lord hath spoken? Thoughts like these are surely thoughts which God meant us to reflect on, as He had these ancient words "written for our admonition."

2. Here is the prominent position given to the Ark. This has already been adverted to under the previous verses. We not only need the promises, but their Divine Author.

3. Here is the impressive silence of the people (Jos ). Not only did it need that the Lord should be there, but men were to be as though they were not there. They were to "keep silence before Him" whose presence was necessary, and not so much as to pretend that they had any real part in getting the victory.

4. Here is the equally impressive shout which immediately preceded the overthrow of the walls (Jos ). The Lord would have His enemies to see that He and His people are in close union. The men of Jericho must have seen that the God of Israel was doing all; the shout which just anticipated the fall of the walls would shew that God had means of making His time known to the Israelites, and that they in turn fully believed in Him. This is a shout of faith, and a shout of anticipating praise.

II. The severity of the spiritual discipline.

1. God tries His servants by commanding things which apparently have little adaptation to the end sought. How absurd this marching would seem to the critical Israelitish mind; and how the patience of the "intelligent" part of the host would be tried. If the dividing of the Jordan had not been so fresh in mind, we feel as though there might have been yet another rebellion. But this process of besieging the city, which looks so unnatural to us, was exactly adapted to accomplish the purpose of Jehovah. God was not waiting all this time to collect His energy for the everthrow of a few walls. He was not waiting to gather up His power for the destruction of the Canaanites. He could have spoken and destroyed the city and the idolaters at a word. The Lord had a more exalted war. His battle was with human hearts. He was seeking to overcome these Israelites rather than those Canaanites. He would subdue them to Himself with faith, and bind them fast with wonder and thankfulness and love. And whatever "intelligent" men might think of fancied absurdities in this conflict, surely there never was such a display of military genius before. These tactics of human silence and the quiet walking of so vast an host around Jericho for six days were adapted with infinite wisdom to overawe the Canaanites. We can fancy the fear which kept growing up for those six days within the city, which took on new alarms at the unusual succession of these silent marches on the seventh day, and which made the hearts of the idolaters to melt and become as water indeed when that great shout of faith rent the air and seemed to crumble the very walls to dust. If the Israelites had only fought a little more humanly, the Canaanites might have hoped; what hope dared they encourage before these men who brought with them a superhuman history, and then gave the history vivid realism by these superhuman methods? The very air through the whole week must have felt increasingly awful in the noiseless and tremulous suspense which, as the stillness preceding a tropical storm, silently heralded the coming God. And the strategy which was so divinely wise to conquer the Canaanites through fear, was not less adapted to subdue the Israelites through wonder and joy and love. God's way with the idolaters was wise; but His real war was with the Israelites, and that was not less wise. No one can think of lack of adaptation, much less entertain the idea of absurdity, who pauses sufficiently to understand where the real brunt of the battle lay. The world still goes on with its intelligent criticisms, passed now on the Gospel and the Church; and it not seldom misses its way altogether through failing to understand what God is about, and where His conflict is meant to bear. Men approach Calvary from a mental and scientific standpoint, and take their observations in the light of systematic theology; the strategy of the cross is directed to the conscience, and while it has enough of "sweet reasonableness" to make a feint upon the mind, its heavier and real movements are ever made upon the heart. Men discuss "the foolishness of preaching," and make merry over what they call the truth of the apostolic description; they do not heed that the larger half of God's battle may be with the proud hearts which have to cry, "Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel," and with the discontented spirits who have to hear. They do not know that mere intellectualism may be but a proud parade in mental uniform, and that, to some natures, it needs as much humility and grace to preach a good sermon as it might have needed, under the pretence of military genius, to march for six days around Jericho. These are but indications; but everywhere men are misreading God's plan of battle, and forgetting that half of His war is to take captive, through severe discipline and surprising successes, the men who are named "His people," but whom He is wishing to see more entirely His own. He could overawe the world with a word, if that were all; instead of that, He is designing that men should choose Him and love Him for what He is, and, humbling themselves everywhere to prefer His will to their own, glorify Him for what He does.

2. God would have His servants feel that they need as much trial to bear victory as they could possibly realize even in defeat. In heaven we may be able to bear triumphs without preparation; on earth we need go to victory so as to provoke the scorn of our foes, lest our victory should be even worse than defeat. In our defeats, God's plan is to lead us through defeat straight to victory, lest we be discouraged; in our victories, His way is to lead us to success through paths of shame and weariness, lest victory be the most utter defeat of all. Thus does He contrive everywhere to make His people "more than conquerors."

III. The splendour of Divine triumphs.

1. God's victories are openly won before the eyes of men, but no eye sees the process. Of old, and not less now, he saps the walls silently, and undermines them secretly. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit."

2. God's victories are preceded by an unaccountable feeling of expectation. Jericho held its breath in awe; Israel marched on in outward silence, but inwardly was full of the joy of anticipated triumph. On both sides, human consciousness was acknowledging the approach of its Maker. So has it been in many of the revivals of the Church. 3. When God begins to fight, His triumphs admit of no question. Human fortifications simply serve to shew Divine prowess.

4. The victories of God are each preliminary to triumph which is final, and to conquest which is universal. This first victory at Jericho contemplated nothing less than the possession of all Canaan. Thus it is also in the kingdom of Christ; the cross contemplates a last enemy, pronounces that that enemy "shall be destroyed," and says of the greater JOSHUA, "He shall reign for ever and ever."

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos .—THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUE SERVANT.

In the opening verses of this chapter we have the record of the Divine commands which were given to Joshua concerning the siege of Jericho. In these verses which follow, we see the impression made on Joshua's mind by the vision with which he was favoured, and by the words which he heard.

I. The true servant gives reverent attention to that which his Lord says. Joshua seems not to have lost a word, or to have forgotten anything which he was commanded. He was not so absorbed in the glory of the Divine Presence as to forget the importance of the Divine message. Joshua did not lack reverence; he bowed low before the majesty of God, and "fell on his face to the earth." Joshua could not but feel the greatness of the honour done to himself in this visit so graciously made to him by his Lord. He at once accepted the subordinate position, and said to his Divine Commander, "What said my Lord unto His servant?" Joshua's profound reverence did not distract his attention, and his sense of the honour conferred upon him by God did not take shape in conduct which would prave him unworthy of such honour. There is not a word in the chapter to show that Joshua proclaimed to the people the fact that he had been favoured with this vision; he may have communicated it to the officers, but even of that nothing is said. Certainly no parade of this distinctive honour appears to have been made.

1. He serves well who accepts his Lord's distinctive favours as a stimulus to work, rather than as giving an occasion for display. God's honours cannot but delight His people, but the man who receives honour to parade it assuredly does not use it as God would have him. Whatever of truth there may be in those lines of one of Dr. Watts's noblest hymns, in which he says,

"But favourites of the Heavenly King

May speak their joys abroad;"

many have felt this exultant note of joy in favouritism was not written in that higher and nobler mood which best becomes those who love the Lord. Given that the doctrine represents nothing but the truth, the spirit of that single note jars painfully through the otherwise exalted harmony of the whole hymn. Our distinctive favours are to help us in service rather than in song; they are rather for meditation than for exhibition; they are not so much for others as for ourselves.

2. He worships well who so adores the Divine glory as to endeavour to magnify it yet more. We are not to be so absorbed in our visions, and so taken up with our more ecstatio moments of fellowship with God, as to let them end only in communion. The glory of the Lord must never take away our attention from His commandments. Even Saul of Tarsus, ere he became a servant indeed, cried out under the bright light which revealed to him the presence and majesty of the Son of God, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?" So Joshua, the obedient man of many years, asks at once from his prostrate position of adoration, "What saith my Lord unto His servant?" It is not enough to exult in God's glory as seen in nature, as seen in His attributes and word, or as seen in the character of Jesus Christ; the best reverence we can pay to Him is, while we worship, to hide His words in our hearts. That is the first step in the way to victory.

II. The true servant faithfully makes known the words of the Lord to his fellows. The verses in which Joshua speaks to the people are so very like the verses in which the Lord speaks to Joshua, that they sound like a mere recapitulation. This is as it should be.

1. Our human imaginings are not to be put instead of Divine words. What we think is not even to be added to what God says, with any view of perfecting His plan or supplying His omissions. Joshua had been the general of this army for forty years, and out of his large experience he could readily have made suggestions for the attack, which would have commended themselves to the people; he merely tells them what God has said. He alters nothing, and he does but amplify in order to explain and enforce that which he has heard. Such is the spirit of all true preaching.

2. Our human apologies or excuses are never needed for Divine words, and are always out of place. If ever an apologetic tone in reiterating God's words were allowable, surely it would have been here. This military order was so strange. The people had seen something of war, and had some experience in war; and this command to march round a fortified city in silence for six days, and to shout at the close of the seventh circuit on the seventh day, must certainly have had a peculiar sound. Joshua does not explain the command; he does not even add a word to remind them that God had lately so revealed Himself in the dividing of the Jordan, that however strange might be His precepts, He had a right to unquestioning obedience. Joshua simply tells what he has heard, and bids the people do it. That is all that this faithful servant has to say on the matter. This was very beautiful in Joshua the soldier. It was like saying, "Obey orders, and ask no questions." It was accepting the orders of his own Commander implicitly; and it was the right method to adopt, if he would have his soldiers obey their commander. This spirit was even more admirable in Joshua the servant; it was as though he should say to himself, "Who am I to suggest aught of excuse for the Lord?" This spirit, also, is a pre-requisite for victory. Our preaching must have no additions to the Gospel, and no apologies for the strange ways of Divine mercy and love. Pardon without penance may sound peculiar, atonement through blood may appear both awful and strange, victory through faith may not seem the fittest way of triumph to us; perhaps he will honour God best, and lead most of his fellows to salvation, who simply tells out the story as it is. The philosophy of the cross is not the secret of its triumph, and preaching about the Gospel may be ever so different from preaching the Gospel itself. It is well that some should "explain the way of the Lord," no doubt; yet the exposition of Divine truth should ever be given in the spirit of its enforcement. The tone of apology, however; must always be as offensive to God as it is injurious to men. The way to victory is not that way.

III. The true servant not only hears attentively, and reiterates faithfully; he also obeys promptly. Sometimes, in our prayers, we plead before God as David did—"Do as Thou hast said." If we would have God do as He has said, we must do as He has said also. Joshua looks forward in faith to victory, but only through promptly obeying the Divine word. When we can lose our way and will in the way and will of God as Joshua did here, we shall not be far removed from triumphs similar to his. As we become perfect in the spirit of serving the Lord, so shall we become more than conquerors over the world.

Jos .—THE SILENT AND DILIGENT SERVICE OF MEN PRELIMINARY TO THE MANIFEST WORKING OF GOD.

I. The silence of obedience. There are places where we are commanded to "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." Where speech might have been murmuring, and thus rebellion, "Aaron held his peace."

II. The silence of humility. When the Lord fights for us, it best becomes us to let all men see that the battle is not ours, but His. As Mackintosh has said, "No one would think of bringing a lighted candle to add brightness to the sun at mid-day; and yet the man who would do so might well be accounted wise, in comparison with him who attempts to assist God by his bustling officiousness.… The only possible effect of human efforts is to raise a dust which obscures the view of God's salvation."

"God doth not need

Either man's work, or His own gifts: who best

Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state

Is kingly; thousands at His bidding speed,

And post o'er land and ocean without rest;

They also serve, who only stand and wait."

Milton's Sonnets.

"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him."

III. The silence of patience. They who serve God can well afford to wait. The walls which fall not on the sixth day, will yet give way on the seventh. He who can only work when success is manifest, is but a poor servant; and he who can only fight in the hour of evident victory, is not worthy of the name of soldier. How the Saviour waited during those thirty long years ere He began His work! Speaking of Him in that period, F. W. Robertson said, "A mere man—a weak, emotional man of spasmodic feeling—a hot enthusiast—would have spoken out at once, and at once been crushed. The Everlasting Word Incarnate bided His own time,—‘Mine hour is not yet come;' matured His energies, condensed them by repression; and then He went forth to speak and do and suffer. His hour was come. This is strength—the power of a Divine silence, the strong will to keep force till it is wanted, the power to wait God's time." Not less patiently did Christ wait after His work commenced. He knew how to pass through the midst of wrathful men, who sought to cast Him from the brow of the hill at Nazareth on the very day when He began His ministry, and yet not to be discouraged. He could endure to say, "The Son of man hath not where to lay His head," and not only to say that, but to feel the bitterness of such rejection as none but He could feel it, and yet to continue His silent and holy service. He could bear to know that "neither did His brethren believe on Him," and still work. He could see one apostle waiting in weakness to deny Him, and another in malice already on the way to betray Him, and then, glancing back over His apparently fruitless ministry, say to the eleven, "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." He could enter into the agony of Gethsemane, expire amid the hootings of a nation who crowned their rejection of Him on Golgotha, pass into the darkness of the tomb, and emerging thence say even to the disciples who had all forsaken Him and fled, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." Though despised and rejected of men, He commanded them to wait for the promise of the Father in the very place where men would have said failure was most apparent; and when that promise of the Father came, they were to arise and preach the Gospel among all nations, "beginning at Jerusalem." There is nothing that preaches to us, "Be silent to the Lord, and wait patiently for Him" (Psa , Marg.), as does the Lord's own life. In its beginnings, throughout its duration, and in its earthly end, that Life seems to spend itself in telling out with Divine force the word of the ancient prophet—"It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."

IV. The silence of faith. Silence is a time of power, not of weakness. T. T. Lynch has told us that

"In silence, mighty things are wrought;"

and, similarly, another,

"How grand is silence! In her tranquil deeps

What mighty things are born!"

and Faber—"When God spake all things into being, the everlasting silence remained unbroken. No stir was seen, no commotion felt. The starting into life of ten thousand times ten thousand millions of angels from the deep abyss of eternity, created no noise. The creation of millions upon millions of worlds, by the fiat of His matchless power, was done in noiselessness and peace." Man may need commotion and disturbance to assure him that work is being done, silence is sufficient for God; and sometimes, as here around Jericho, God asks His children to believe, although there is nothing but Himself on which their faith can rest. When His children do thus rest in faith, they are content to walk on in the same silence out of which God so loves to evolve His mightiest works.

V. The silence of expectation and awe. We feel as if this very shout must have had, almost within it, a silence intense, profound, and absolutely awful. In his "Battle of the Baltic," when the fleets of England and Denmark had met, and were about to engage, Campbell sells us,

"There was silence deep as death;

And the boldest held his breath,

For a time:

When each gun

From its adamantine lips

Spread a death-shade round the ships,

Like the hurricane eclipse

Of the sun."

So intense and terrible do we feel the silence must have been which preceded, and which again immediately succeeded this fear-filling shout from six hundred thousand believing men. When they had thus given Jehovah's chosen sign for His own working to commence, what would God do?—the God who had made a path through the sea, and divided the Jordan; how would He begin His war on Jericho? Joshua knew how; but had he told the people? It seems not; and yet all Israel must have felt that this was the crisis. How would Omnipotence declare itself? We can almost feel, even now, the bated breath that made silence painful ere that shout was given, and the yet more awful stillness, coupled as it would be with intense gazing and terrible expectation, which abruptly followed—so abruptly, perhaps, that all straggling sounds of single lingering voices were choked back in the solemn hush that fell like a spell upon the host. What would God do now? And then, almost as they ask that silent question, the walls fall in upon themselves, a cloud of dust arises right round the city, another solemn stillness succeeds the murmur of awe among the Israelites which the sight had involuntarily provoked; the cloud clears away, fear and pain have taken hold upon the fleeing idolaters; then the trumpets of the priests suddenly sound forth in the midst of the hosts of Israel, and the army of the Lord charges on the devoted city on all sides at once, and proceeds to execute the terrible ban of cherem in slaughter and burning.

If such be the temporal punishment of sin, what must be its final judgment? If such be the awe gathering around the overthrow of one guilty city, what of those moments when the hosts of the wicked of all time stand before the judgment seat of Christ? "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe." In that day it shall again be said, "Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God."

Jos .

I. The first day of obedient service on the part of the Lord's people. No murmurings are recorded as having been uttered against doing a meaningless task. In days like these, no desertions occur from the army of the Lord to the side of the Lord's enemies. Contempt and scorn would hardly be felt by those who had seen the mercy of Jehovah in the dividing of the river. Rest must have been sweet on the night succeeding this day's toil; it was the rest of obedience overshadowed by mercies which were hardly past, and made refreshing by promises almost fulfilled.

II. The first day of more direct and solemn warning to the Lord's enemies. The general warnings of Providence and Scripture will have a day in which they will begin to assume definite shape to every man who has not repented of sin (cf. Mat ). AS with the inhabitants of Jericho and Jerusalem, so must it be to all who fear not God. The day will come in which dispersed threatenings will be seen concentrating themselves for judgment.

The warnings of one day are very like those of another; even when they are most solemn, it is possible to become almost comfortably familiar with them. On the morning of the seventh day the men of Jericho had perhaps learned to say to each other almost pleasantly, "All things continue they were from the beginning."

It is significant, however, that we have no single word of record to guide us as to the feeling which prevailed in Jericho from this first day of compassing the city to the day when it fell. Not so much as a sound of either scorn or fear reaches us to tell us what these men felt. All seems purposely shut off in the darkness of oblivion. What a picture of many other deaths, and how like the speechless stillness which follows them! As yet, eternity gives no sign.

Jos . JERICHO TAKEN.

"

I. The city which was to be taken. Jericho was a city of great antiquity and importance. It was inclosed by walls so considerable that houses were built upon them (chap. Jos ), while the spoil that was found in it is an evidence of its opulence. When the tribes made their encampment in Gilgal, the inhabitants caused the city to be straitly shut up, so that "none went out and none came in." But they could not shut out God. There are no gates and bars that can stand against Him. How vainly they reckon who leave God out of their calculations! When He is with us, no opposing host can harm us; but when He is against us, no earthly walls can protect us.

II. The means by which it was taken. These were very peculiar.…

1. There was no natural fitness in the means to produce the end designed.

2. The means employed were such as would provoke the ridicule of the besieged.

3. The means employed produced no effect whatever for six days, nor even on the seventh, until the shout was raised at the last.

III. The disposition that was to be made of the city. It was to be accursed, or devoted, to God. The Israelites in destroying the inhabitants of Jericho and the Canaanites generally, were but the instruments in God's hand of carrying out His sentence.

LESSONS:

1. Retribution though long delayed comes at last. God's judgments have leaden feet, and so they come slowly; but they have iron hands, and so they strike deadly when they come.

2. Faith does what God says, and asks no questions.

3. At the sound of the trumpets of the priests, the walls of Jericho fell down. By the preaching of the Gospel the strongholds of sin and Satan are to be overthrown.

4. Let us not be impatient of results when we are doing God's commands.

5. Success in our working for God is His doing, not ours, and so the whole glory of it should be given to Him." [William Taylor, D.D.]

Jos .

I. God gives His servants success when they are prepared for it, and as they are able to bear it. A London minister, whose work for the past nine years has been marked by great prosperity, recently made the following statement at a public meeting: "With the first church over which I was called to preside, I spent four years in what seemed an almost fruitless ministry. I think I preached as fervently then as I preach now, and I prayed for God's blessing with all my heart. I looked for success, and week by week announced times at which I would meet enquirers, but none came. I prayed till prayer became an agony within me; still there were no converts. On one Sunday evening I made a special effort to win souls to Christ. All through the preceding week I pleaded, as though I were pouring out my very soul, for a blessing on that service. I prepared, as far as I knew how, simply with a view to conversion. On the evening before the service in question, I went into a field at the back of the chapel, and again, with tears, I besought God to save some. I gave out that I would meet enquirers at the close of the service; not one came either then or afterwards as the fruit of that appeal. Eight years ago," said the speaker, "I preached the same sermon in what was then my new sphere of labour, and ninety-seven persons joined the Church, who traced their conversion to that one discourse." The minister concluded by saying, "I think that in my four years of fruitless labour the Lord was enabling me to bear present success, and getting me in a fit mind to endure the large measure of prosperity with which I have been cheered for the past nine years."

II. When God gives His servants success, He ever gives it to their faith alone, and yet never bestows it without their work. "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down," but they did not fall till "after they had been compassed about seven days." Works are of no use, as is most manifest in this siege, yet God will give no blessing without the works. Some might say, "That is the precise point in dispute between Paul and James; Paul tells us that we must have faith, and James that we must have works." True, they do say that; but there is no dispute between Paul and James. Paul says that we are justified by faith, meaning, of course, a good faith; and James does but assure us that that only is a good and real faith which has works. Perhaps the late F. W. Robertson's illustration gives one of the best definitions of the difference and agreement between the two apostles: "Suppose I say, ‘A tree cannot be struck without thunder:' that is true, for there is never destructive lightning without thunder. But, again, if I say, ‘The tree was struck by lightning without thunder:' that is true too, if I mean that the lightning alone struck it, without the thunder striking it. Yet read the two assertions, and they seem contradictory. So in the same way, St. Paul says, ‘Faith justifies without works;' that is, faith alone is that which justifies us, not works. But St. James says, ‘Not a faith which is without works.' There will be works with faith, as there is thunder with lightning, but just as it is not the thunder, but the lightning (the lightning without the thunder), that strikes the tree, so it is not the works which justify. Put it in one sentence,—faith alone justifies, but not the faith which is alone. Lightning alone strikes, but not the lightning which is alone, without thunder; for that is only summer lightning, and harmless." The works of the Israelites before Jericho stood in the same relation to the fall of the walls. The works accomplished absolutely nothing; by faith the walls fell down: it is equally true that the faith would have been as powerless as the works, had it not been accompanied by the works. Our faith alone is effectual to command the help of God; but if our faith is alone, as having no works, it is not a faith which God will accept.


Verses 21-25

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . And left them without the camp] Till they had undergone ceremonial purification they would be regarded as unclean, and, as such, they were forbidden to come where the Lord dwelt (cf. Num 5:2-3).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CANAANITES

In slaying all the inhabitants of Jericho, with the exception of Rahab and her kindred, it cannot be too distinctly borne in mind that the Israelites were fulfilling the will and obeying the command of God. From Deu , it is clear that although mercy was to be shewn to all cities out of Canaan, the Israelites were to spare no one in the cities of the land itself. The command was, "Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:" the very sign of life was to be the token for death. In carrying out this terrible mission, the Israelites were not to consult any vindictive feelings of their own; they were to act throughout as servants of God. The subject of these verses is not human cruelty, but Divine severity. It is not for us to "justify the ways of God to men;" it would be equally wrong to turn from any of those acts on which God has laid emphasis, because they may not be pleasant to our feelings. God meant us to think on what He does: that is why His solemn works are recorded. In the light which six thousand years have shed on the name and character of God, all His acts should be received with unquestioning trust: His name written under any work whatever should be a sufficient guarantee of its rectitude. When the Judge bears such a character—a character even more Divine than His glorious name—it is good philosophy to argue, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Consider:

I. The grounds for the destruction of these idolatrous people. What is there about the case to assure us that this is no departure from the invariable justness and righteousness of God?

1. It should not be forgotten that God has a right to the lives of all men. That right is being continually asserted. In London alone, some one dies every eight minutes. God claims our little children who are too young to know what sin means, and our aged parents and friends also. Sometimes a dreadful accident sweeps away its scores, or even its hundreds; or it may be that a fearful pestilence takes, in a few weeks, many thousands to the grave. At the back of every death is the will of God. The ancient Persians believed in two gods, Ormudz and Ahriman; the former, the cause of light and good things, the latter, the cause of darkness and evil things. In the very teeth of that mistake Jehovah proclaims, through Isaiah, "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." God claims to do the things which wound and break our hearts, as well as the things which heal them. The Saviour dares to stand prospectively by the slain martyrs of His Church, and in view of their shed blood and burned bodies to expound: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows." God claims to stand by every death that occurs from disease or accident: He claims not less the right to employ the sword of man as an instrument for the overthrow of the wicked, and a means whereby He may call even His children home. If diseases and accidents may be the messengers of a just God, why not the sword also? Even men claim the right to destroy murderers. God claims the right to take life in single cases, and we bow in reverence to His demand. Joshua acts as God's instrument in slaying Achan; but no less does Elijah act as God's instrument in the destruction of the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. The demand in one case is on a larger scale than the other, the principle is the same in both. It may be asked, Would not the effect of slaying all the Canaanites be morally injurious to the Israelites as their executioners? Could they possibly slay whole cities of men, women, and children, without becoming degraded and brutalised themselves? Probably the effect must be bad, if there were not some adequate reason. If there were a solemn need for this slaughter, in order that myriads might be rescued from the miserable degradations of idolatry, it might altogether change and correct the influence on the minds of the executioners. But no theorizing on that point is necessary: as a matter of fact, the generation of men who did this dreadful work of slaughter were a great deal holier than their children. The lessons of this solemn judgment were written deeply on the hearts of the Israelites, and it was not till after they had passed away that the iniquity recorded in the book of Judges was committed.

2. Apart from the Divine right to human life, the provocations of the Canaanites were very great. (a) They were gross idolaters. For one thing, they worshipped Baal, in which worship the most degraded cruelties were practised. Little children were offered in sacrifice, and, in the time of Jehoshaphat, we find that the king of Moab offered for a burnt offering either his own eldest son or the son of the king of Edom. Another of the idolatries of the Canaanites was the worship of Ashtoreth, the Sidonian goddess of impurity, the lewd rites connected with which warrant the suggestion that the death of these children by the sword was merciful, compared with the life otherwise before them. (b) The Canaanites, who worshipped idols like these, must have known much of the true God. They were descendants of Noah, and with very few intervening generations. Ham, the father of Canaan, was one of the eight persons saved in the ark, and from his lips Canaan could not but have heard solemnly of God's awful judgment in the deluge. As has been pointed out, if Canaan lived as long as some of the children of Shem, his life and personal influence would have reached on through about half the period between the deluge and the overthrow of Jericho. The Canaanites had also received repeated warnings, which reached backward to the destruction of Sodom. All the pious traditions of Noah's godliness, and the subsequent warnings given because of the sinfulness of the Hamite branch of his descendants, had been alike despised. We have only to look at this case calmly to see how much reason there was for this sword of destruction.

3. God's purpose was to remove this idolatry from the land. We need not regard the whole of the inhabitants of the land as destroyed. They evidently had the alternative of flight, and God's fear is said to have been sent in advance of the Israelites to induce the idolaters to escape (cf. Exo ). It is a matter of history that many are known thus to have fled to other lands. Those who chose to remain were to die, lest the Israelites should be corrupted. It might be asked, Might not the women and children have been spared? This, also, needs no consideration as a theory: some were spared, and the result was the gross idolatry of the Israelites themselves. The very history of the generations which followed, vindicates with painful sufficiency the necessity for this terrible command.

4. While we mark here the severity of the Lord, we should also think on His longsuffering and His justice. The covenant with Abraham, that his seed should inherit this land, was made more than four hundred and fifty years before, and God had then said, "Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age: but in the fourth generation thy seed shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." God waited for four centuries and a half; He would not consume these idolaters till the measure of their guilt made it imperative, nor would He allow Israel to take possession of the land so long as its original occupants were suffered to live. While we stand in awe before the severity of Jehovah, we are also compelled to behold that He is "merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth."

II. The lessons which God, through this terrible judgment, would impress upon the contemporary and after world.

1. His unwavering determination to punish sin. Longsuffering does but make wrath seem more awful: it shews that there was no viudictiveness in the Divine anger, but it lays terrible stress on its deliberateness. God "will by no means clear the guilty." Our sin must be borne personally, or be confessed by faith, and put away in Jesus.

2. God's peculiar hatred of the sin of idolatry. This deliberately proposes other gods, and He alone will be worshipped. Israel was to be punished for this just as severely as Canaan (cf. Deu ). This also was in mercy. There can only be One God for eternity; idolatry could not but lead to everlasting spiritual ruin.

3. Emphatic assertion was to be given to the fact that Divine anger is not fictitious. Even good men, and some of these especially, have ever been wont to lean to the side of Divine love, so as to lose sight of the realness of Divine wrath. The need for these terrible records is proclaimed by nothing more earnestly than by the readiness of men to blot out, or interpret feebly, the sternest words of Scripture.

4. We are to learn the importance of taking heed to occasional warnings. The overthrow of the cities of the plain, and of the Egyptians, the wonders of the Red Sea and the wilderness, and the dividing of the Jordan, are preliminary to the destruction of a nation.

5. God would teach the world, through all time, the awful meaning of His own silence. It is not enough that we do not often behold the judgments of the Lord; the only place for safety is to stand where we can hear Him speak in love. These four hundred and fifty years were, notwithstanding some warnings, years of comparative calm. It would be only too easy for the Canaanites not to hear much of the voice of the Lord in judgments as far back as Sodom, and as far off as Egypt. But the silence of God was only such stillness as often precedes the storm. Ought not some to interpret prosperity and calm in the same way now? It has been written for our admonition, "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver."

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos . "Every living thing in Jericho—man, woman, child, cattle—must die." Our folly would think this merciless; but there can be no mercy in injustice, and nothing but injustice in not fulfilling the charge of God.

"The death of malefactors, the condemnation of wicked men, seem harsh to us; but we must learn of God that there is a punishing mercy. Cursed be that mercy that opposes the God of mercy." [Bp. Hall.]

"The destruction of these Canaanite cities followed upon an immediate Divine direction (Exo ; Deu 7:2; Deu 20:16; 1Sa 15:3); at another time the Israelites vow the same (Num 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 (Lev 20:2; Deu 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 (Exo 23:32; Deu 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 neighbour. He who seized upon anything for himself that had been devoted paid the penalty with his life (Jos 6:18; Deu 13:17; Jos 7:11 ff.)." [Lange.]

Jos . THE DELIVERANCE OF-RAHAB AND HER KINDRED.

I. The sacredness of representative acts is as great as that of personal acts. Joshua made the promise of the spies as binding as if it were his own act, and the Lord bad regard to it no less than Joshua; for Rahab's house, though built upon or against the wall, stood safely after the wall had fallen. Representative acts are common all through society, and practically society often holds them to be imperatively binding. "No man liveth to himself." We are always committing other people to responsibilities by our deeds, even though we do not act officially on their behalf. Thus, too, we suffer in the sin of Adam, and are saved in the obedience of Christ.

II. The hope which comes from faith in God is as certainly salvation to the very sinful as to those who are outwardly righteous. "By faith Rahab the harlot perished not with them that believed not." Having acknowledged in heart and by her deeds that the God of Israel was the only God, her safety was in Him whom she trusted, and not in her past life. This woman, who was a sinner, was as safe in Jericho, though God Himself fought against it, as righteous Daniel in the lions' den. God loves all men; and when they accept Him by faith, it is He who is their Saviour, not their character. A young woman in Scotland left her home, and became a companion of the street-girls of Glasgow. Her mother sought her far and wide, but in vain. At last she caused her picture to be hung in various places of public resort in the city, which her daughter might be likely to frequent. Many gave that picture a passing glance. One lingered by it, and could not break away. It was the same dear face that looked down upon her in her childhood. Her mother had not forgotten her, nor cast off her sinning child, or she would never have sent her portrait to hang pleading with the wandering one from that wall. The very lips seemed to open, and to whisper, "Come home: I forgive you, and I love you still." So thought the poor penitent, and bursting into tears she hastened back once more to the home and the life in which mother and daughter could again be one. So God here seems to pourtray His own heart for the Rahabites of all time. He, too, is saying, through this pardoned woman of Jericho, "Come home: I forgive you, and love you still." Those who hear His voice and do His bidding, are as safe in His forgiveness as any other of His children.

III. The salvation of the soul comprises the salvation of everything else that is necessary, so long as it is necessary. Both the book of Joshua and the Epistle to the Hebrews lead us to hope that Rahab was spiritually as well as temporally saved. That being so, her very house stands so long as it is necessary to shield her. The Lord throws down the rest of the wall, but not this part. Presently, when Rahab is delivered, the house may be burned in common with the other houses of the city. If we love God, all that we have is safe so long as it is wanted to assist in shielding us. When this is no longer the case, we need not mourn over our burnt dwelling-places, out of which the owner has been so graciously delivered. We might often sing over our saved selves, where we foolishly weep over our destroyed or removed belongings.

IV. The saved member of any one family should mean, at least often, a saved household. Rahab and "all that she had" were delivered. It seems very dreadful to think of one member of a large family loving Christ, and living with them for years on earth, and yet at last going to heaven alone. It seems as though there could be neither love nor humanity in the creature who was delivered; or hardly a promise in the Bible, and only a God who gave no heed to prayer.

V. Those whom the Lord saves are not only to know deliverance from outward danger and death, they are to seek an inner and actual life. These ceremonially un clean ones were to tarry without the camp till they had been purified. Proselytes were thus taught to feel that none of the old heathenism must be brought in to defile the children of the Lord and they themselves must be separated from their former lives ere they could dwell before the Ark of the Divine Presence. Those who only come to the cross, must never expect to reacl the crown. We need not only justification, but sanctification also. Nothing that defileth entereth in before God above.

VI. The salvation of the Lord has not only forgiveness of sin, but forgetfulness of it also. Salmon, at ancestor of David, afterwards married Rahab. God thus graciously suffered her name to have a place in the gene alogy of the Saviour; in addition to which, honourable mention is made by the Holy Spirit of her faith. It is as though Divine mercy would not only save the worst, but also hold before them hope of the highest honours. David did not speak vainly when he said, "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us."

"It troubleth me not to conceive how, the rest of the wall falling flat, Rahab's house, built thereon, should stand upright; seeing Divine power, which miraculously gave the rule, might accordingly make the exception." [Fuller.]

"Judgment and mercy shewn by the devotement of Jericho on the one hand, and on the other by the deliverance of Rahab.

"The rescue of Rahab considered in reference

(1) to her character;

(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 the heathen woman is received into Israel, that through Israel the heathen also might be saved." [Lange.]

Jos . God would have us blot out even the traces of past iniquity. Sin is the abominable thing which the Lord hateth; where He exposes it, it is but that He may hide it for ever. Calvary reveals human sin only "to cast it into the depths of the sea" forever. The Scriptures continually represent God as "covering sin," "blotting it out," or as "casting it behind His back."

God takes of the gifts which men have obtained, not because He has need of them, but because they have need to render Him honour, and to acknowledge that by His strength all has been won. That which God takes as His own, He still leaves for the help of His servants.

Jos . "I. God's promises are as certain as if they had already been fulfilled and gone into effect. II. God thinks also of compassion when He is most angry, for in the midst of wrath He is gracious. III. What God curses no man must bless, and what God blesses let no man curse." [Cramer.]


Verse 26-27

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Jos . Cursed be the man … that buildeth this city Jericho. It is exceedingly difficult to accept the generally received view, and to believe that this curse relates merely to the rebuilding of the city walls, and to the restoration of the fortifications.

(1.) The old city seems to have been burnt, and utterly destroyed (Jos ).

(2.) A new city of some extent appears to have been built within the next seven, or at latest, within the next twenty-five years (Jos ; Jud 1:16). Within the next century, Jericho became of sufficient importance for Eglon to make war against Israel by attacking it, and the fall of the city was accepted as the defeat of the Hebrew nation (Jud 3:13-14). It is therefore fair to suppose that even within the first quarter of a century after its overthrow by Joshua, Jericho began to assume considerable importance.

(3.) This new city would perhaps have been even more easily built on a new site than on the old site. It is not likely that it would be wholly rebuilt on any site during the earlier years of the war: a few houses on a new site would be accessible, whereas a few houses on the old site would be almost unapproachable. In any case, there is no improbability in supposing a new site not far removed from the former city.

(4.) It is quite natural to suppose that a new city on an adjacent site would take the old names.

(5.) If Jericho were rebuilt in the time of Joshua, or within a few years of his death, it is almost impossible to believe that the people of those days would build on the old site. (a) Joshua's curse was no caprice of his own; he was bound to pronounce it by the law of Moses (Deu ). (b) The curse on a devoted city was irrespective of whether it had any fortifications or not; the city itself was to "be a heap for ever." (c) Though the law was ignored during the wicked times of the Judges, Joshua and the people of his day were too pious and too loyal to God to have set at defiance a law which Joshua had reiterated himself, and in the awful solemnity of which that generation had received such long and terrible instruction.

(6.) Finally, though city gates probably suppose walls, Hiel's children are said to have been slain, not because of fortifying an old city by re-erecting the walls, but because he did "build Jericho." Both the curse and its fulfilment are said to have regard to building the city, and not merely the walls of the city.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Jos

THE RUINS OF JERICHO

Reasons have already been given for the conclusion that Joshua's curse was pronounced against the man who should rebuild the city of Jericho on its original site, rather than against him who should re-enclose any newly built city with a wall. The very nature and object of the curse (cf. Deu ) are so entirely lost sight of by the latter conjecture, that this alone seems sufficient to render the opinion untenable. The place could not be called "a heap for ever," and thus stand as a memorial of Divine reprobation, merely because it lacked a wall. Strabo's allusion to similar curses pronounced in connection with the rebuilding of Carthage, Troy, and Sidene, is well known. In the case of Jericho, the curse was doubtless intended to keep the memorial of desolation before the eyes of coming generations. The ruins of the city would go on speaking vividly for ages, while a new city on the old site would obliterate the traces, and thus also the memory of this judgment of God.

I. The ruined city a permanent memorial of God's hatred of idolatry. There would be "sermons in stones," which the Israelites could hardly fail to read. God made the vision of His anger so plain upon the tables of these dismantled walls, that he who read might well run from the desolating influences and issues of idolatry.

II. The ruined city a lasting monument of miraculous help from heaven. The Israelites would have other conflicts, in the future. Their future soldiers might come and see these walls as God had left them, and thus learn, that no enemies were strong enough, and no fortifications sufficiently solid, to resist the people whose helper was the Lord. The ruins would themselves take up the Divine word to Joshua, and continually preach, "Be strong and of a good courage."

III. The ruined city a constant appeal to Israel not to trust in an arm of flesh. Jericho was a stronghold of the land, and a key to its possession. The old inhabitants could not stand with the fortress. The Israelites, with the Lord on their side, could take the city without lifting a single weapon against its walls. God meant His children to learn here how to sing, in all future emergencies, the song of after years, "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help." The generations to come were to see that they were never to trust in their own strength, and never to doubt the sufficient power of the Lord.

OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Jos . THE FAITHFUL WORD.

About five hundred and thirty years after this curse was pronounced, a Bethelite named Hiel rebuilt this city, and suffered the exact penalty here predicted. It cannot be doubted that Hiel knew of Joshua's curse, knew that the city had been made cherem, and that, according to the law of Moses, it was to remain a heap for ever. Hiel would probably be as well acquainted with the curse as the writer of the history in the book of Kings. The very tone and manner in which the transgression is mentioned, seem also to indicate that this Bethelite knew that he was doing that which was forbidden. This record in Joshua, taken in connection with 1Ki , suggests the following thoughts:—

I. The easy path to unbelief of God. The law itself might have assured Hiel that the curse was no mere utterance of Joshua's vindictive or excited feelings, but the mind and will of Jehovah. Assuming that the man knew of the curse, it is impossible to think that he believed it would come true. No father would have thus recklessly sacrificed his children. It is interesting, and should be instructive, to place ourselves mentally in the position of this Bethelite, and endeavour to ascertain by what process of reasoning he might be led to conclude that the curse would not take effect.

1. Hiel might have thought that time had rendered the curse null and void. Nearly five centuries and a half had rolled away since the fall of the ancient city; and it would be easy to hope, and presently get to feel, that the curse must have lost all its vitality during that long period. It is not difficult for men to persuade themselves that the threatenings of the Bible are very old, and to treat them as correspondingly weak. Men read of sin's penalty on Eli, on David, on Gehazi, on Ananias and Sapphira, and see that sin was punished; and they are told that God still is angry with the wicked. Then they remember that the Scriptures are not merely five hundred, but some eighteen hundred, years old; and forthwith they persuade themselves that time must have rusted away the edge from the sword of Divine threatenings. So Hiel might have thought, but, for all that, Abiram dies, and Segub also. "One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

2. Hiel might have reasoned, It is unlike the mercy of God to deal with me thus severely, even if this be a trespass. Think of this man as sitting down to study the character of God: he would find mercy in Egypt, mercy in the wilderness, and mercy in the after-history of Canaan; and might presently conclude, It is altogether unlike God to punish my innocent children, even though my act might be guilty in His sight. Nevertheless, this man's children died. Life is everywhere vicarious, and God seems to have chosen this way to teach very emphatically that no man can sin without doing wrong to his fellows, and especially to his own children. Meanwhile we are left to see that our reasoning on Divine mercy never alters facts.

3. Hiel might have said, I can see no reason for this strange command. He might have thought it of little consequence in heaven whether he should build on a hundred acres lying towards his right hand, or on a hundred other acres lying on his left. It is not enough that we can call God's commandments strange: this is no sufficient reason for disobedience, or for unbelief. The ordinances of the Old and New Testaments may not be after the pattern of human fancy; they were given, nevertheless, for faithful observance. The cross is strange, and salvation through faith not less so, but if God be gracious enough to save us, it ill becomes us to cavil at the method.

4. Hiel might have persuaded himself, This curse, after all, may be merely a tradition; or it may be the curse of Joshua, and not the utterance of God. Hiel ought to have known the law of Moses; but probably the neglect of God, common at this period, was accompanied by neglect of God's word. The man, if he much wished to build the city, might not find it difficult to treat the reported history as a tradition, or to consider the curse as the outcome of Joshua's excitement in the hour of victory. Men may treat the Scriptures as uninspired, calling this Gospel the book of a man named John, and another a history by a Jew named Mat hew, and the Epistles so many different letters by various writers; but when men have succeeded in taking all thoughts of Divine inspiration out of their creed, the inspiration of the Scriptures remains exactly as it was before. The promises are as precious as ever, and the threatenings as terrible.

5. Most likely, however, Hiel built Jericho without troubling himself to think upon the curse with any earnest consideration whatever. While he probably knew of the history, and had most likely heard of the curse, and possibly loved his children, he might proceed in a sort of careless hope that no harm would follow. More men are lost by careless unbelief than by deliberate disbelief. Where intelligent and honest scepticism slays its tens, carelessness destroys its millions.

II. The absolute and unfailing truthfulness of God's words. Not one jot or tittle of this curse passed away. Abiram and Segub both died, the one at the laying of the foundation, the other at the setting up of the gates of the city. History shews an unbroken fulfilment of the Scriptures. It cannot be denied that much learning and enmity have for many years been arrayed against the Bible: it is something to say that no serious attempt has ever been made by infidels to prove it guilty of broken promises.

III. The bad influences of unholy associations. It was in the days of Ahab that Hiel built Jericho, and the man himself was a Bethelite, In the city where Jeroboam had set up his calf, making the place a metropolis of idolatry; and during the reign of Ahab, "who did more to provoke the God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him;" there and then did Hiel build Jericho. This single sentence of history is one of God's many and everlasting monuments, erected in solemn protest against our association with wicked men; and from north, south, cast, and west there looks out from the grim column this inscription, "Stand not in the way of sinners."

IV. The power of unbelief, when it is once seriously entertained. When Abiram died, it might have been thought that Hiel would have desisted; the curse was seen to be effective: yet this miserable man appears to have gone on building, losing, as some think, other children while the work was proceeding, and seeing his youngest child expire when he had set up the gates of the city. What must have been his feelings while disobedience and death were thus working together? We do not know; this we know, the early death, or deaths, did not prevent the continuation of the work. It is hard to win men from carelessness; it is still harder to rescue them from cultivated unbelief.

"The imprecation upon Jericho;

(1) a well-deserved sentence; hence

(2) fulfilled as a prophetic word, when Hiel again built the city.

"Rather bless than curse, because we are Christians. Men not to be cursed, but only sin." [Lange.]

The curse on Jericho, though fulfilled on Hiel and his children, seems to have been absolutely and definitely removed in the time of Elisha, and by that prophet, about twenty-two years after the city was rebuilt (cf. 2Ki ). The school of the prophets at Jericho (cf. 2Ki 2:5) may not have been in the Jericho that Hiel built, but in the city which we have supposed to have been built on an adjacent site, and assigned by Joshua to the tribe of Benjamin (Jos 18:21). If this were so, there was no recognition by God, or by godly men, of the city which Hiel built on the original site, until after the curse was removed by Divine direction. After the curse was thus removed, the city became again famous, and was conspicuous as the scene of several of our Lord's miraculous works. Taken in this light, the history suggests the following important subject:—

THE CURSE OF SIN AND ITS DIVINE REMOVAL

I. The occasion of sin's curse.

1. The curse of sin ever comes by man. It is not arbitrary. God does not pronounce it on men because He has any pleasure in human pain and death. He swears by His own existence that this is not the case: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." So far from that, the Scriptures represent God as "grieved" on account of human sin and woe. Jesus Christ, who is the image of God, weeps at the grave of Lazarus, and over the coming desolation of Jerusalem. As we have been told, God is

"Not in blessedness supernal,

Sitting easy on a throne,

Dealing sorrow out to others,

With no sorrow of His own."

Rather let us remember that "In all our afflictions He is afflicted."

2. The curse of sin is only pronounced after plain warnings. It was so in Eden: God said, "In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die," before He spake the curse which followed the fall. It was so with these Canaanites, who had been warned solemnly and often.

3. The curse of sin is, after all, full of mercy. Sin could have no severer curse than to remain uncursed. Not only of necessity, but also of love, "sin worketh death." Death is within sin, as fruit is within the plant: that being so, Divine Love itself could do nothing more gentle, and nothing more kind, than to threaten punishment, and sometimes to inflict it from without.

II. The fulfilment of sin's curse (cf. 1Ki ). This fulfilment is:

1. Sometimes long delayed. Hiel's punishment was five hundred and thirty years after Joshua's execration.

2. Exceeding bitter. Hiel's punishment seems more painful than if he had himself died.

3. Falls on men not only directly, but representatively. This, in the case of Hiel's children, was only symbolical of the usual and essential consequence of sin: "By one man sin entered into the world, and so death passed upon all men." If the children of this Bethelite died in infancy, we who believe that the infants of both dispensations are saved, can think of no greater mercy to them. The chastisement is on the father, who wronged himself, and, in an earthly sense, wronged them also; while the children are taken from the evil to come to a Father who wipes all tears from the eyes of all who dwell with Him.

4. Faithful to the Divine word. Hiel's punishment tells how not one jot or one tittle of what God says passes away until all is fulfilled.

III. The removal of sin's curse (cf. 2Ki ). The people who lived in the city which Hiel rebuilt seem to have suffered severely till God annulled the curse through Elisha. When God removes the curse of sin, He makes it as though no curse had ever been. He takes it away entirely. He forgets that it has ever been: "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." The Saviour throughout His ministry treats this city as though it had never known the curse. Here Jesus healed blind Bartimus and his fellow-sufferer; there Zacchus was told of Him who had come to seek and to save that which was lost, and heard his Lord say to him personally, "This day is salvation come to thine house." Not least, it was on an incident occurring on the way down to Jericho that our Lord founded the parable of the Good Samaritan. Thus graciously does God take away the curse of sin, and enable His servants to say, "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound; that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord."

Although quite unsuitable for homiletical purposes, the reader is referred to the article on "Barrenness" in Calmet's Dictionary, for an exposition of the passage in 2Ki ; and also to the remarks of Josephus, Wars, iv. 8. 3. It will be noticed that Josephus plainly distinguishes between "the old city, which Joshua took the first of all the cities of the land," and an adjacent Jericho, thus supporting the remarks previously made on this verse.

Jos . When the Lord is with His servants,

(1) Their methods of service will appear singular to the world (Jos );

(2) Their triumphs will be manifest, notwithstanding all obstacles (Jos );

(3) Their obedience will be complete, even where difficult (Jos );

(4) Their mercy and integrity will be conspicuous in the midst of indignation (Jos );

(5) Their consecration will be thorough in the presence of temptation (Jos );

(6) Their fame will eventually be as apparent as their faithfulness (Jos ). They will say with Paul, "Thanks be to God who leads me on from place to place in the train of His triumph, to celebrate the victory over the enemies of Christ; and by me sends forth the knowledge of Him, a steam of fragrant incense throughout the world. For Christ's is the fragrance which I offer up to God, whether among those in the way of salvation (as with Rahab), or among those in the way of perdition (as with the Canaanites); but to these it is an odour of death, to those of life." [Conybeare's Paraphrase, 2Co 2:14-16.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 6:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/joshua-6.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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