Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 6:20

So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Ark;   Miracles;   Rahab;   Trumpet;   Scofield Reference Index - Faith;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   Conquests;   Delayed Blessings;   Home;   Israel;   Israel-The Jews;   Jericho;   Joy-Sorrow;   Miracles;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Shouting;   Stories for Children;   Victories;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ark of the Covenant;   Miracles Wrought through Servants of God;   Sieges;   Trumpet;   Walls;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Anathema;   Miracle;   Rahab;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Earthquake;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Scripture, Unity and Diversity of;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Anathema;   Booty;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Joshua, the Book of;   Rahab;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Israel;   Jericho;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Miracles;   Rahab, Rachab ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Jericho;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Anathema;   Ark;   Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Rahab;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Joshua (2);   Palestine (Recent Exploration, I.e. as of 1915);   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ban;   Joshua, Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down - There has been much learned labor spent to prove that the shouting of the people might be the natural cause that the wall fell down! To wait here, either to detail or refute any such arguments, would be lost time: enough of them may be seen in Scheuchzer. The whole relation evidently supposes it to have been a supernatural interference, as the blowing of the trumpets, and the shouting of the people, were too contemptible to be used even as instruments in this work, with the expectation of accomplishing it in a natural way.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets,.... As Joshua had charged them, Joshua 6:16,

and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet,

and the people shouted with a great shout; that is, gave a loud shout, on hearing the long blast of the trumpets blown by the priests the seventh time, as they were no doubt directed by Joshua, agreeably to the order given to him; see Joshua 6:5,

that the wall fell down flat; the wall of the city of Jericho, as the Lord said it should; see Gill on Joshua 6:5,

so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city; they went up to it from the plain, where they were, and entered it without any difficulty, the wall being fallen, and that everywhere: so that they went directly from the place where they were, and went in right over against them, into every quarter and, part of the city, and seized on it, and possessed it at once. Various things may be observed concerning this surprising event; as that it was supernatural, and cannot be ascribed to second causes, there being nothing in the procession round the city, the blowing of the trumpets, or shout of the people, that could occasion the wall to fall; and that no defences or fortifications are anything against God, when it is his will a city should be taken, with whom nothing is impossible; and that sometimes unlikely means are appointed and used by him for doing great things, that the power may appear to be his by which they are done; and that faith stops at nothing, when it has the word and promise of God to encourage and support it; and that God does everything in his own time and way. The falling of the walls of Jericho may be considered as an emblem of the fall of Babylon; these two cities agree, as in their greatness, so in their wickedness, Revelation 17:4; and as Jericho stood in the way of Israel's inheriting the land, being a frontier and barrier town; so mystical Babylon stands in the way of the kingdom of Christ, and its spread in the world, and particularly of the conversion of the Jews, Revelation 11:14. The fall of Jericho was very sudden, and when not expected by the inhabitants of it; and so will be the fall of Babylon, Revelation 18:7; and as Jericho fell at the sound of rams horns, the destruction of antichrist, or mystical Babylon, will be through the preaching of the Gospel, Revelation 14:6; and as the one was by the sounding of seven priests, at the seventh time of sounding, on the seventh day; so the ruin of antichrist will be at the seventh angel's sounding the seventh trumpet, and pouring out the seventh vial, Revelation 10:7; and as at the destruction of the one, so of the other, but few saved from the common calamity, Revelation 18:4; and both never to be raised up and built again, Revelation 18:21; And it may be considered also as an emblem of the subjection of the Gentile world to Christ; which, like Jericho, or the moon, as some observe the name signifies, is very changeable; and as that city, and the inhabitants of it, an enemy to God, and his people, and yet made subject by the ministry of his word; as particularly it will be when the kingdoms of this world shall become his: or rather it may be an emblem of the subjection of particular souls to Christ, and the means thereof; who are like the walled city of Jericho in their unregenerate state, their hearts hard, stubborn, and inflexible, and enmity to God; are self-confident, vainly puffed up in their fleshly minds, and shut up in unbelief, and kept and guarded by Satan, the strong man armed; but all these strong holds of sin and Satan are brought down and demolished in conversion; and that by means of the sound of the Gospel, which is as despicable with men as the sound of the rams' horns were to the inhabitants of Jericho; but is a jubilee and joyful sound, a sound of love, grace, mercy, and salvation; and being accompanied with the Spirit and grace of God, is the power of God unto salvation; and mighty through him for the removing the hardness of men's hearts, and bringing them into subjection and obedience to Christ.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Pause, Reader, and behold in this instance, the wonderful work of God! See how the Lord fights for his people! And when you have duly pondered the history, spiritualize it in the yet far sweeter subject of salvation by Jesus, our Almighty Joshua; and rest assured, that such, but only in an infinitely higher degree, will be the triumphs of thy God and Saviour, followed by his holy army, in the day when all the walls, which are fenced up to heaven, shall fall before him, and his redeemed return from Zion, with songs of everlasting joy upon their head., Isaiah 35:10; Revelation 12:10.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 6:20 So the people shouted when [the priests] blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

Ver. 20. So the people shouted.] See Joshua 6:16.

The wall fell down flat.] See Joshua 6:5. So shall all our corruptions; in subduing whereof, though the Lord require our daily eudeavours during the six days of this life, yet it will never be fully done till the very time of death, which will be the accomplishment of our mortification.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 20. And—when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and—shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat When therefore the priests blew the trumpets, the people, hearing the sound thereof, shouted with a great shout, and the walls, &c. Houb. The miraculous nature of this event is so palpable, that one cannot conceive how it could come into the minds of any to contest it, or even to endeavour to assign natural reasons for it. The horrid art of war was in its infancy at the time of Joshua; and it does not appear that any of the means found out in subsequent ages for overthrowing the walls of cities, or making breaches in them, were then in use. The invention of the battering ram is much later. Pliny seems to attribute it to Epeus during the siege of Troy; but, in all probability, Ezekiel is the oldest author who has mentioned this formidable machine, and Nebuchadnezzar the first person who used it, in the siege of Jerusalem, many ages after the Trojan war. See Ezekiel 4:1-2; Ezekiel 21:27. As to gunpowder, every one knows that that fatal composition was not found out till the 14th century of the Christian aera; and even could we suppose the Israelites to have known any thing bordering on the art of undermining the walls and ramparts of a city, and blowing them up by means of any ingredient like gunpowder, would any one venture to say, upon mere conjecture, that such was the practice before Jericho? Could they, in the little time that had elapsed since they passed over the Jordan and invested Jericho, have undermined that city? Besides, what are the steps they take there? What can we find out in them that has the appearance of a siege? And who, on the contrary, sees not in the promises of the general, and the processions of the soldiery, that a miracle was expected? It is God who orders, God who directs every thing. The city is attacked afar off: at the sound of the trumpets, and at the cries of the people, the walls fall down. What machines, what warlike instruments, what a way of besieging and taking a strong place! But, say some, Is it not possible for the walls of Jericho to have fallen without any extraordinary operation of Divine power, and by the mere sound of the voices and trumpets of the Hebrews? The rabbi, Levi Ben-Gershom, hath started such a conjecture, though, notwithstanding, he acknowledges here the miracle in the way we see it.

Amongst the moderns too this opinion hath been strongly defended, particularly by the learned father Mersenne and Morhoff. They observe, that a violent noise is sufficient to break to pieces the most solid bodies, or to agitate them at a considerable distance; and they have collected together some curious particulars to prove it: insisting, among others, on that related by Borelli, a celebrated mathematician, as an eye-witness, that being at Taormina, a city in Sicily, about thirty miles from mount AEtna, that volcano made an eruption, the noise of which shook every house in the city, with circumstances which would not allow him to doubt that this agitation proceeded from the mere trembling of the air, which communicated itself to the houses. To facts these writers have added suppositions; they have represented all the priests sounding the horns, and all the people blowing the trumpets before the walls of Jericho; they have remarked upon the situation of the city, placed in the midst of mountains, where the sound must consequently have a greater effect than in plains: in a word, they have collected whatever might give any colour to the paradox which they chose to maintain; and then they have themselves concluded, that nothing of all this could satisfy them, and that they were, at all events, obliged to acknowledge the Divine hand in the falling of the walls of Jericho. How, indeed, the case being properly stated, can the fact be denied? The question is not, whether walls may fall down by reason of sound, whatever it be; but whether those of Jericho were overturned by the sound of the horns, by the priests, and by the shouts of the people, as from a natural cause. We do not ask, whether God could beat down these walls by the concurrent sounds of the horns and voices of the Israelites, but whether the event so happened: and the Scripture says nothing like it. Besides, divers reasons destroy the conjectures of Mersenne and Morhoff: 1. However powerful we may suppose the noise made by the Israelites before Jericho; yet, that city being so far distant as to be out of the reach of arrows and stones (as interpreters reasonably presume they were), that noise could not but have lost much of its force, and have considerably decreased on reaching the walls. 2. It must have lost so much more of its strength, as it bursts into the open air; for Jericho was situated, not in a narrow valley, but in a plain, overlooked by a mountain. See Joseph. Bell. Jud. l. v. c. 4. 3. For the noise of the horns and voices of the Israelites to overturn the walls of this city, it was necessary that it should be exactly proportioned to the situation of those walls, and the matter of which they were composed. Now, the precise knowledge of this exact proportion, and the issuing of a noise well adapted thereto, though effected by the concurrence of never so many instruments, and never so many voices, would alone be a great miracle. Nay, 4 could this noise alone have been able to overturn the walls of Jericho; yet it is much more difficult to conceive why the trees in the neighbourhood, the tents of the Israelites, and even all the people, should not have been thrown down in like manner. 5. Can it only appear probable to ingenious men, that things so wonderful should be effected by a violent sound, and without a miracle, though we see at this day, when the art of war is brought to so high a pitch of perfection, how much money, labour, and blood it costs, to attack and master well-defended places? Is it in the least probable, that so much pains would be taken, so many skirmishes held, so many risks run, if, by the noise of trumpets in a numerous army, the walls of the cities they attacked could be thrown down. 6. And to conclude, How comes it to pass, that we never see the frightful clamour of so many cannons, mortars, guns, which swallow up the sound of the loudest instruments, and whose horrible din shakes the air as with thunder round the besieged city,—how happens it, I ask, that we never see this noise alone open breaches to the besiegers, and spare them the trouble of trenches, mines, and assaults? But it is too much to stop to confute a supposition, which has engaged the notice of the learned, merely because they are learned who have ventured to advance it. We add but one word more: if any of the ancient fathers seem to have attributed the falling of the walls of Jericho to the sound of the instruments and voices of the people of Israel, it was from a supposition, that God had given to that sound a supernatural and miraculous power. See Scheuchzer, vol. 4: p. 102.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 6:20 a ‘So the people shouted when they blew with the trumpets, and so it was that when the people heard the trumpet-sound, the people shouted with a great shout.’

Note the concentration on the noise made. The trumpets sound and the people shout. ‘The trumpet-sound’ is literally ‘the sound of the trumpet’, the singular drawing attention to the sound rather than the trumpets. This was the long blast of Joshua 6:5. Now the city would recognise that the moment had come for them to put up stout defence. But they did not realise what was about to happen.

Joshua 6:20 b ‘And the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.’

What caused the wall to fall flat? The basic answer was, YHWH. Whether it was by an earthquake or tremor, or by resonance from the noise made which reacted on unstable walls possibly crowded with defenders, it was to be seen as at the instigation of YHWH. Thus it was not a matter of forcing their way through a breach in the walls but simply one of going straight forward and clambering over the fallen stones. The relatively few defenders, numbering in hundreds (even though crowded with people from the surrounding countryside), and numbed by what had happened, had no chance against the much larger Israelite force, numbering probably around six hundred military units (Exodus 12:37).

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

20.So the people shouted — The trumpets gave the signal and then the people shouted. The trumpets had been silent during the speech of Joshua, (Joshua 6:17-19,) then came the signal, and the war-cry, and the downfall. How vain the attempt of some to strip this event of the miraculous by ascribing it to an earthquake! How came Joshua to know that an earthquake would occur at that particular juncture? Such knowledge would be a greater miracle. Equally untenable is the theory that the walls had been extensively mined by a people brought up in the desert, in utter ignorance of that method of conducting war. How absurd to imagine that even the most skilful engineer could so undermine a wall that it would stand till a shout should topple it down! Verily, sceptics are the most credulous people in the world. This miracle put into the hand of Joshua the key to Canaan, the strongest city in the land. With no experience in the art of besieging and storming cities, they could not immediately, without the divine aid, have reduced this stronghold. It also gave both Israel and Canaan overwhelming proof of the omnipotence of Jehovah and of his alliance with Joshua.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

flat = under itself. Compare Joshua 6:5. Jericho was thrice built, and thrice destroyed; no that the city of Joshua"s time has not yet been reached by recent excavations. The city, rebuilt by Hiel in Ahab"s reign (822-790 B.C.) was captured by the Herodians (3 B.C.) and rebuilt by Archelaus (A.D. 2). This was the Jericho of our Lord"s day, which was destroyed by Vespasian, 7 A.D.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

So the people shouted when the priests blew. Toward the close of the seventh circuit, the signal was given by Joshua, and on the Israelites raising their loud war-cry, the walls fell down, doubtless burying multitudes of the inhabitants in the ruins, while the beseigers, rushing in, consigned everything, animate and inanimate, to indiscriminate destruction (Deuteronomy 20:16-17). This sudden demolition cannot be ascribed to any natural causes. It was clearly a miracle; and following immediately after the miraculous passage of the Jordan, the sudden opening up of so strongly a fortified border city, the key to the interior of Canaan, without exertion or loss on their part, was an encouraging pledge to the Israelites that God would, according to His promise, as easily deliver the whole land into their power. Jewish writers mention it as an immemorial tradition that the city fell on the Sabbath. It should be remembered that the Canaanites were incorrigible idolaters, addicted to the most horrible vices, and that the righteous judgment of God might sweep them away by the sword, as well as by famine or pestilence. There was mercy mingled with judgment in employing the sword as the instrument of punishing the guilty Canaanites; because while it was directed against one place, time was afforded for others to repent.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
the wall
5; 2 Corinthians 10:4,5; Hebrews 11:30
Heb. under it.
Reciprocal: Exodus 32:17 - There is a noise;  Exodus 34:10 - I will do marvels;  Numbers 20:8 - speak;  Joshua 2:15 - for her house;  Judges 7:8 - trumpets;  Judges 7:20 - blew;  Judges 7:22 - blew;  2 Chronicles 13:15 - as the men;  Psalm 111:6 - showed;  Jeremiah 50:15 - Shout;  Ezekiel 21:22 - to lift;  Ezekiel 26:10 - enter

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


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.]



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."



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.


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.



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.


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.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

20.So the people shouted, etc Here the people are praised for obedience, and the faithfulness of God is, at the same time, celebrated. They testified their fidelity by shouting, because they were persuaded, that what God had commanded would not be in vain, and he, in not allowing them to lose their labor, vindicated the truth of what he had said. Another virtue of not inferior value was displayed by the people, in despising unlawful gain, and cheerfully suffering the loss of all the plunder. For there cannot be a doubt, that in the minds of many the thought must have risen, For what end does God please to destroy all the wealth? Why does he envy us that which he has given into our hand? Why does he not rather gladden us by furnishing us with the materials of thanksgiving? Dismissing these considerations, which might have interfered with their duty, it was a proof of rare and excellent self-denial, voluntarily to cast away the spoils which were in their hands, and the wealth of a whole city.

The indiscriminate and promiscuous slaughter, making no distinction of age or sex, but including alike women and children, the aged and decrepit, might seem an inhuman massacre, had it not been executed by the command of God. But as he, in whose hands are life and death, had justly doomed those nations to destruction, this puts an end to all discussion. We may add, that they had been borne with for four hundred years, until their iniquity was complete. Who will now presume to complain of excessive rigor, after God had so long delayed to execute judgment? If any one object that children, at least, were still free from fault, it is easy to answer, that they perished justly, as the race was accursed and reprobated. Here then it ought always to be remembered, that it would have been barbarous and atrocious cruelty had the Israelites gratified their own lust and rage, in slaughtering mothers and their children, but that they are justly praised for their active piety and holy zeal, in executing the command of God, who was pleased in this way to purge the land of Canaan of the foul and loathsome defilement’s by which it had long been polluted. (66)

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 6:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.