Bible Commentary: Joshua 6

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Joshua 6

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And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down 

It is apparently on the First Day of Unleavened Bread that Joshua receives instructions from the preincarnate Christ—”the Commander of the Lord’s army” (Joshua 5:15 Joshua 5:15And the captain of the LORD’s host said to Joshua, Loose your shoe from off your foot; for the place where on you stand is holy. And Joshua did so.
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)—about how Jericho is to be taken (Joshua 6:2-5 Joshua 6:2-5 [2] And the LORD said to Joshua, See, I have given into your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. [3] And you shall compass the city, all you men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shall you do six days. [4] And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day you shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. [5] And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
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). Their first march around the city seems to have occurred later that day. The city being only a mile away and their march around it measuring about another mile, this would not have taken long. The subsequent marches begin early in the morning (verses 12, 14). The seventh day, the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, though a Holy Day, was not especially restful for them that year. God had His work for them to do. They rose at dawn and marched around the city seven times before giving a great shout with the trumpet blasts. So far, this was about eight miles of marching, but God’s work was not yet done. At the sound of the trumpets and shout, the walls of the city “fell down flat,” or, literally, “fell under itself,” and permitted the Israelite soldiers to scramble up and over the debris, entering the city from all directions (verse 20).

Many archeologists have pointed to Jericho as an instance in which the biblical account is unsupportable from evidence found at the site. However, this is based primarily on a misdating of a particular destruction layer by British archeologist Kathleen Kenyon in the 1950’s. According to archeologist Bryant Wood: “She concluded that the Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed about 1550 bc by the Egyptians. An in-depth analysis of the evidence, however, reveals that the destruction took place around 1400 bc (end of the Late Bronze I period), exactly when the Bible says the Conquest occurred” (“The Walls of Jericho,” Creation, March-May 1999, p. 37).

Indeed, findings from this destruction layer are remarkable. For instance, there was an upper (inner) and lower (outer) mudbrick city wall, the lower one resting on a retaining wall that held the earthen embankment beneath the city in place. Along with many buildings, the city wall did collapse and fell “beneath itself” to the base of the retaining wall, the debris creating a virtual ramp up into the city from all directions—all except one, that is. A short stretch of the lower city wall on the north side did not fall—and there were houses built against that wall, as Rahab’s house is described! Moreover, this area, on the outer embankment, would have been a poorer area, just where a prostitute at the time would be living. There is also clear evidence of the city being burned, but only after the “earthquake” did its damage, again confirming the biblical account.

More remarkable still, “both Garstang [a 1930s excavator] and Kenyon found many storage jars full of grain that had been caught in the fiery destruction. This is a unique find in the annals of archeology. Grain was valuable, not only as a source of food, but also as a commodity which could be bartered. Under normal circumstances, valuables such as grain would have been plundered by the conquerors. Why was the grain left at Jericho? The Bible provides the answer. Joshua commanded the Israelites that the city and all that is in it were to be dedicated to the Lord (Joshua 6:17 Joshua 6:17And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.
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, lit. Heb.)…. [Also] such a large quantity of grain left untouched gives silent testimony to the truth of yet another aspect of the biblical account. A heavily fortified city with an abundant supply of food and water [as Jericho had, having a spring within it] would normally take many months, even years, to subdue. The Bible says that Jericho fell after only seven days. The jars found in the ruins of Jericho were full, showing that the siege was short since the people inside the walls consumed very little of the grain” (p. 39). The Bible tells us that “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down” (Hebrews 11:30 Hebrews 11:30By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
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). And the amazing evidence that this event really did happen can strengthen our faith that God will crumble any “walls” that stand in our way as we strive to live Christian lives before Him.

As with Egypt and Sodom, Jericho was a symbol of sin that God was destroying (verses 17-18). And, as already noted, Jericho was apparently destroyed on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, a fitting symbol of the ultimate victory over sin. Forty years earlier, the Israelites had crossed the Red Sea, and God brought the waters of the sea down on Pharaoh’s army, granting the Israelites victory and escape from the bondage of Egypt, symbolizing the final release from bondage to spiritual Egypt and death. The Red Sea crossing appears to also have been on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, as Jewish tradition attests. Additionally, there is reason to believe that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may well have been during the Days of Unleavened Bread, too (compare Genesis 19:3 Genesis 19:3And he pressed on them greatly; and they turned in to him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.
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). This gives us three great victories over sin to remind and encourage us in our attempts to replace sin with God’s way of life during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

In verse 26, Joshua pronounced a curse on anyone who would rebuild the city of Jericho. The site was sporadically occupied after this (Joshua 18:21 Joshua 18:21Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,
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; Judges 3:13 Judges 3:13And he gathered to him the children of Ammon and Amalek, and went and smote Israel, and possessed the city of palm trees.
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; 2 Samuel 10:5 2 Samuel 10:5When they told it to David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed: and the king said, Tarry at Jericho until your beards be grown, and then return.
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), but never to any real extent. Joshua’s curse, however, actually would be fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 1 Kings 16:34In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.
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, when a man named Hiel actually laid new foundations and rebuilt the city gates. Many centuries later another city was built nearby and also named Jericho. This later city is the Jericho mentioned in the New Testament.


Supplementary Reading:“Archaeology and the Book of Joshua: The Conquest,” The Good News, July-Aug. 1997, pp. 22-23, 29“Jericho: Does the Evidence Disprove or Prove the Bible?,”The Good News, March-April 2002, pp. 10-11.

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