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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)—about how Jericho is to be taken (Joshua 6:2-5). 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, 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). 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). 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; Judges 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5), but never to any real extent. Joshua's curse, however, actually would be fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34, 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.