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When it's all against you


The Fall of Jericho
  
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.

4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.

5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.”

7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”

8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them.

9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding.

10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!”

11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.

13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding.

14 So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.

16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!

17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[b] to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.

18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction
by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.

19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.

21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.”

23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.

24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house.

25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.

26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

“At the cost of his firstborn son
    he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
    he will set up its gates.”

27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

Joshua 5:13-6:27 (NIV)

We join this story as Joshua and the Israelite army arrive at Jericho, the first city of the Canaanites they encounter. The impressive fortress city of Jericho we will come back to later in the study, there are things we need to know first.

The Israelites had just crossed the river Jordon, this was a raging river at full flood height! Just this crossing would of put fear into the Canaanite towns and cities. They must of felt quite safe at least for a while with an uncrossable river between them and the desert nomads. 

The Canaanites would of known of the Israelite belief that their God had given the Caananite lands to them. They probably gave them little thought behind there walls, the river, all the layers of society and there many Gods; what could these nomads do?

The Canaanites had heard rumours and stories of plagues and the splitting of a sea, but they had there own stories and legends. Surely that’s what these Israelite tales were? 

But wait surely it can't be true? The Israelites did it again, they split the Jordan! Maybe the stories are not legends, you can imagine the fear.

You can also imagine the sense of triumph and superiority in the Israelite camp. Yes they honoured God, gave thanks and set up a memorial for all generations. However you cant help but suspect they were becoming prideful, that conquering Canaan was going to be a walk in the park. 


2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.”


3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath Haaraloth.

What is this? They cross the Jordan ready for war and God orders all the men to be circumcised? Now this is not the best way to prepare men for combat, what with the initial pain and then recovery time. you have effectively disabled your army! I am sure some of the captains and advisors were not happy with this plan.

They have just seen the power of God so I doubt any were brave enough to argue no matter what they thought. Why did god do this? The book of Joshua tells us that all the circumcised men had died in the desert. They knew this was done to mark them out as Gods sanctified men, they were now set apart, holy, but nevertheless injured.

Now back to the fortified city.

The mound, or “tell” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some 4 to 5 meters (12–15 feet) high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall 2 meters (6 feet) thick and about 6 to 8 meters (20–26 feet) high. 

At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 14 meters (46 feet) above the ground level outside the retaining wall. This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to breach the impregnable bastion of Jericho. 

Within the upper wall was an area of approximately six acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system was 50% larger, or about nine acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 200 people per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 1,200. However, from excavations carried out by a German team in the 2000's, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. 


In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city. The citizens of Jericho were well prepared for a siege. 

A copious spring which provided water for ancient, as well as modern, Jericho lay inside the city walls. At the time of the attack, the harvest had just been taken in (Joshua 3:15), so the citizens had an abundant supply of food.

So Joshua and his captains have no small task in front of them. What should they do? Verse 13 gives us a clue. Joshua was near Jericho which leads me to think, was he was having a look, making a plan or possibly looking at a map?


13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

He looked up, from what? My imagination fills in the gap; maybe Joshua was praying, or maybe he looks up from a map. Irregardless it was the meeting is important.

Joshua's question is a good one, is he a spy? A messenger? I Get the impression Joshua at this point already knew something supernatural was happening. The answer though he wasn’t ready for.. 


14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

If Joshua was not already aware of this man's greatness or his supernatural status, I'm sure he would of fell about laughing before quickly killing him for blasphemy. If this man isn’t who he says he is then he is mocking God, they didn’t really go down that route back then so who is he? Maybe Michael or another angel? I personally think not, this has to be God himself, no one else can command the forces of heaven. I believe Joshua knew this too, this was God in human form look at Joshua's response and question.

​ Why did he not declare himself on Israel's side? I believe it is about obedience, trust and faithfulness. To paraphrase what Jesus says in the new testament if you love me you will follow my commands (John 14:15). 

God loves all men equally, he is giving Joshua and the Israelites an opportunity to trust in him. Yes the Caananites do evil in the eyes of God and yes the Israelites are his chosen people but unless they choose to follow what God says are they any better than the caananites?

Also consider what the man says next


15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

We will come back to this later.

For now though this is evidence that it is God himself in front Joshua, the place where Joshua is standing was not holy 5 minutes before. It was just a field so what makes it holy? The presence of the Lord everytime we hear someone instructed to remove there sandals is the reason the place has become holy, why? 

God spoke to Moses through a burning bush. It was just on a mountain, a path Moses had probably walked plenty of times, but the presence of the Lord made it holy. I am in no doubt this man is God in a human form. (that is not the same as God being human). In Jesus, God became human; here he takes on the appearance of a human.


1 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.
4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.
5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

What? This is a madness surely this is not a military tactic! After disabling his army some of his military advisors must of balked at this plan .not Joshua though, he asks no questions , he has no doubt, he goes straight to the people he tells them exactly what he was instructed , he leads in obedience and faith ,he leads in trust the people follow . Joshua is set on one path to obey the lord no matter how odd it seems.


6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.”
7 And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”
8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them.
9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!”
11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there

Joshua modelled obedience, the people followed his model. The stories of there parents were being played out in front of them, they were living it! It was not just Joshua's model (although this was important).

The Spirit of God, the power of God was real to them. they had just seen what obedience to God's will can do in the crossing of the river Jordan. They were thinking big, believing in the impossible. Notice also how Joshua is making sure they do not deviate one bit from the instruction given to him, total submission to Gods plans.

They stuck to the plan completely, imagine what the Canaanites thought watching this strange parade. I'm sure there was amusement, bemusement but also fear some would of thought it a ruse, a distraction. Others may have been fearful of this being some ritual (which it was). Mostly though I think they still would of felt safe behind the fortress walls. Then came the seventh day...


15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.
16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!
17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.
18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.
19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

Devoted to the Lord, a very sanitised way of saying killed. The people killed, the silver and gold taken (not plundered), no slaves taken; everything and everyone devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab and her house survived.

This sounds brutal and it was, some people struggle with the old testament God being a God of love when he instructs the Israelites to wipe out nations and groups of people. I don’t want to go too deeply into this now but this old testament God is the same God of love as we find in the new testament. Everything action hes takes is done in love, nothing has changed.

  • The same God of love will judge all people at the allotted time.
  • The same God of love gives us a choice today as he did all through the ages.

Jesus says (I am paraphrasing here) “you are either with me or against me” (Luke 11:23) with God or against God the very fact the choice exists is because God is love.

We see that played out here Rahab described as a prostitute, a Canaanite, a follower of false gods. She is to be spared, her and all her household, why? She chose God. Her past did not matter, it was what she did when confronted with the power of God and the truth of the coming judgement on Jericho that mattered. 

Rahab was so important to God as she is listed in the lineage of Jesus. Saved because God is love.

Again here we see Joshua instructing the soldiers to follow exactly to the letter; do not deviate from the will of God or trouble will follow. It would have been a hard instruction for soldiers especially back then the spoils of war are part of the victory prize. Joshua is clear, take nothing.


20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.
21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Their faith in God held true, he had given them the city. Humanly speaking an impossible task but nevertheless the city had fallen and supernaturally so. This would have sent shock waves throughout Canaan.


The city destroyed, no one left. Now the tactic makes sense what is God doing here? What message is being sent? 

Surely it is this: Fear the Israelites, for I am with them. fear them for they are powerful, brutal, why this message?

Propaganda is a powerful weapon that can create fear, causing people to surrender before a sword has been raised. The message also lays the roots for establishing the nation of Israel as a strong nation. God needs Israel to be established so through it we can all be saved.

The odd instructions, the mutilation of the army all of it . is to show the canaanites and other potential enemys they should leave Israel alone. It also tells the Israelites to be obedient to My Word and Instruction and I will give you everything.

This last part seems to get forgotten time and time again by God's chosen people then and his adopted people now.Their faith in God held true, he had given them the city. Humanly speaking an impossible task but nevertheless the city had fallen and supernaturally so. This would have sent shock waves throughout Canaan. 

The city destroyed, no one left. Now the tactic makes sense what is God doing here? What message is being sent? 

Surely it is this: Fear the Israelites, for I am with them. fear them for they are powerful, brutal, why this message? 

Propaganda is a powerful weapon that can create fear, causing people to surrender before a sword has been raised. The message also lays the roots for establishing the nation of Israel as a strong nation. God needs Israel to be established so through it we can all be saved.

The odd instructions, the mutilation of the army all of it . is to show the canaanites and other potential enemys they should leave Israel alone. It also tells the Israelites to be obedient to My Word and Instruction and I will give you everything.

This last part seems to get forgotten time and time again by God's chosen people then and his adopted people now.


 ​ 22 Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.”  
23 So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother, her brothers and sisters and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house. 25 But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho—and she lives among the Israelites to this day.
26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:
“At the cost of his firstborn son
    he will lay its foundations;
at the cost of his youngest
    he will set up its gates.”
27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.

I'm going to jump to the last verse here as it sums up everything we need to understand why Jericho had to fall this way. Everyone knew God was with Joshua. Joshua knew he would be successful in leading his people if he sought God's will and desire over his instead.


This is the message we must take from it, we must seek first the kingdom of heaven in all we do (Matthew 6:33). sometimes the hill seems to big, the walls to high. Our Lord and God does not leave us there, with his help we can achieve anything! 

We have to listen for His guidance, most importantly we have to be obedient. The whole world might be telling you it will not work and to give up. If it something God wants you to do it will work IF and it is a big IF. IF We are obedient God will not do it all for us, we have a responsibility. 

We do our work and God will do his, we should not expect him to do ours and we certainly could not do his!

He will guide us, we have to put it into action no matter how pointless or odd it seems. God knows the end outcome, we must:


  •     Trust as the Israelites did at Jericho
  •     Obey as the Israelites did at Jericho
  •     Believe as the Israelites did at Jericho

If we do that then God will do the impossible as he did at Jericho. For those that seek to do God's will when you are struggling with insurmountable odds remember this story, then ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Why did Jericho fall that way?
  2. Would it have fallen any other way?

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