Faith, obedience, endurance, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan
Part 1.2: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6
Bible passages being discussed: (Joshua 6:3-20)
In the first instalment of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6, we started this month’s study by reading about the pivotal events and preparation that led to the Israelite’s victory at the city of Jericho, where God caused the walls of this fortress city to fall down and the Israelites to establish themselves as the new rulers of the land of Canaan – the Promised Land.
We started our Bible commentary with Israelite’s successful crossing into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua. Though Canaan truly is the land of milk and honey, as God promised them, it is also occupied by their enemies, the Canaanites.
As part of their 3-part military strategy to possess the land of Canaan, the Israelites are about to embark on what no one has done before – they are planning on conquering the impregnable military fortress city of Jericho, which had been strategically built to defend the access point to the central mountain ranges that divide the land from east to west.
However, the Israelites are not going against the seasoned warrior Canaanites alone – God has been preparing His people for victory by re-instigating His covenant with them and insisting on traditions and customs being observed that had been discarded in the wilderness. In addition, God has planted a weakness behind the enemy lines in the form of Rahab, a prostitute. Moreover, the Israelites believe in God’s promise to deliver Jericho into their hands (Joshua 6:2). If God says it’s a done deal, then it’s a done deal!
Now that their preparation is complete, the next thing that the Israelites need to do is carry out God’s plan to overcome Jericho – a plan that tests the boundaries of human logic and military expertise, because it simply does not make sense to us. And yet it worked!
Would you like to know what this plan was and why it led the Israelites to the capture of Jericho? Then keep on reading!
However, before we begin, let us take a quick look at why God chose Jericho, a city whose defenses were considered impenetrable, as a first point of victory for the Israelites in their military campaign on the Promised Land of Canaan.
The victory at Jericho was designed to give God glory and establish His might
The victory of Jericho was going to be monumental, not only for the Israelites to drive a wedge into Canaan and set up a new ruling dynasty in the land, but for God to show His people, the Canaanites, and the surrounding nations how mighty He was.
This was God’s battle, and He was going to choose a divinely superior method of deliverance that would display His power and establish for the Israelites and the surrounding nations that He was the source of the Israelite’s victory – not man’s carnal intelligence or expertise at wielding weaponry.
So why did God seek out Jericho specifically?
Although it is true that the city of Jericho posed as a major obstacle for the Israelites in their pursuit of claiming the land God promised them, what really offended God were that the city’s inhabitants were worshipping pagan idols and holding occult practices that were offensive to Him (Joshua 6:18). This spiritual disobedience was an abomination to God and needed to be stopped and the Canaanites made an example of.
For that reason, God chose to pitch His people, who were inexperienced in warfare and ill-equipped for battle, against the Canaanites, who were superior to them in military experience and resources, in order that all would recognizable that the Israelite victory could only come through God’s might and power and not through human strategizing.
Additionally, this plan was unique in that it had never been implemented before, nor would it ever be used again to conquer a city.
Now, let’s find out what God’s military strategy for defeating the Canaanites at Jericho was.
The art of war – minus the weapons and the fighting
“The Art of War” is one of the most renowned military treatises ever written. It is attributed to the ancient Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu.
When it came to ancient warfare, Sun Tzu and his contemporaries used their experience on the battlefield to form innovative and crippling strategies to gain victory over their opponents. These strategies were documented, resulting in the famous publication we know today.
Sun Tzu’s treatise includes tactical advice in conquering a besieged city, however the people of Ancient Palestine were also seasoned in this type of warfare.
The strategy behind invading a besieged city such as Jericho would have covered a timespan of weeks, if not months. There were various options that an attacking army could implement to force their enemy to surrender:
- They could starve the city inhabitants into surrendering
- They could assault the city with battering rams, moving towers or catapults
- The integrity of the fortress walls could be compromised by tunneling or using fire
- A dirt ramp could be constructed by heaping earth until it reached the most accessible point in the parapets
God’s military plan for the overthrow of Jericho
However, God does not strategize as man does. First of all, His military plan was designed to achieve a victory in 7 days – an impossible timeline in ancient warfare. God reveals further details of His strategy to Joshua:
‘”You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.”
Joshua 6:3-5 (NRSV)
Let’s break down God’s plan:
- The Israelites needed to march around the walls of Jericho once each day, for 6 days
- At the front of the cavalcade would be 7 priests bearing 7 trumpets made out of ram’s horns
- The priests were to walk ahead of the ark
- On the 7th day, the Israelites were to walk 7 times around the city walls
- At the sound of the priests blowing the trumpets, all of the Israelites were to give an almighty shout
- The walls of Jericho fall down
God’s presence is a formidable weapon
God’s plan did not involve weaponry or a convoluted military strategy. It didn’t even require the Israelites to build trenches or erect battering rams. God’s plan comprised of a very simple strategy that entailed two key symbols of God’s presence:
The ark was to play a prominent role in the victory of Jericho. God was showing His people that He was with them, leading them to victory. Seeing the ark before them would also have reassured the Israelites, reminding them of how they crossed the Jordan (Joshua 3:2-4, 3:8-14). God also wanted the ark in front of them to keep the Israelite’s hearts and minds on Him, and not on their upcoming battle.
The trumpets that the priests used were not the silver instruments traditionally used in ceremonies. These trumpets were designed to be used in battle. They were made out of ram’s horns and only ranged a few notes, which evoked spiritual overtones. When blown into, they emitted a dull, penetrating sound, which was designed to make the Israelites associate it with God’s voice.
Can you imagine how these trumpets sounded and the effect it had on the Israelites? And what about the Canaanites? The sombre resonance being emitted from the ram’s horns would have intimidated the Canaanites watching from the walls above them, making them think that the time of their doom was nigh. Talk about an added bonus!
What is also so unusual about this plan is that every Israelite was involved – not only the non-soldiers such as women and children, but also the priests, who traditionally were excused from warfare. God wanted a group effort for a group victory.
I wonder what Sun Tzu would have thought about this plan?
One thing is for certain: Though this strategy challenges our logic (and even our survival instincts), it is evident that God factored in details in His plan that we as humans may otherwise not have considered. Let’s find out what they were.
Don’t fight the enemy his way – fight your way
The Israelites could not engage in direct warfare, as they were ex-slaves and nomads, who had wandered the desert for 40 years. They were not warriors like the Canaanites, and they certainly did not possess battering rams, catapults and such to even launch such an assault. Their few swords and slings (though these were very effective – remember David versus Goliath [1 Samuel 17]?) would be of little use against the fortified walls of Jericho. And God knew that.
Therefore, God wanted the Israelites to fight with what they had. Let’s see what the Israelites had in their strategic assemblage.
The weapons of our warfare are spiritual, not carnal
Based on what we’ve just read, this was always going to be a spiritual battle, not a physical one. Hence, instead of using the meagre supply of weapons in their arsenal, the Israelites were going to fight with far greater weapons – their faith, obedience, courage, and endurance.
The Israelite’s declaration of faith in God’s assurance of victory starts with Joshua. He not only listened to what God told him about the imminent fall of Jericho, he believed that God would deliver the city into the Israelite’s hands (Joshua 6:2).
Then, with continued faith, Joshua told the plan to the Israelites, who in turn, accepted this untried and illogically-sounding strategy with their own faith. This was highly commendable on their part, considering that Joshua intentionally only told them God’s plan in increments. Joshua wanted the Israelites to focus on God and be dependent on Him throughout every part of the process to achieving victory and the prize of capturing the city.
Thus, the Israelites marched around their enemy’s camp trusting God’s promise, which only Joshua had heard directly. They believed in the battle plan.
This was a tremendous leap of faith for the Israelites, for they didn’t have the reassurance of a tried and tested strategy to gauge their odds, nor could they rely on their limited experience in warfare. They had to put their trust and reliance in God.
Despite the battle plan being fraught with danger – walking around a highly defended city being observed by battle-hardened giants for 7 days – the Israelites gathered their courage and walked.
Going around and around the city walls, the Israelites would have been able to see clearly what they were up against – giants armed to the teeth in weaponry, impenetrable walls with ramparts wide enough for chariots to ride across, and a looming stone tower that rose 28 ft above them. They also would have made themselves vulnerable to attack from the Canaanites. And yet, the Israelites refused to let themselves be intimidated. They walked in courage, knowing that God was Jehovah Nissi – their battle standard.
Joshua and the Israelites followed God’s strategy down to the last detail. For 6 days, every man, woman and child walked in absolute silence around the walls of Jericho in the cavalcade that God had decreed – even when they saw nothing happening.
It was only on the 7th day, that the Israelites shouted once – again in obedience to God at Joshua’s command.
The Israelites demonstrated their obedience by fulfilling Joshua’s instructions as he issued them, without having an overview of God’s strategy.
Additionally, the Israelites most likely would have marched on the Sabbath. However, they chose to obey a God, who didn’t allow Himself to be restricted by His own laws, as opposed to strictly following a religious practice. We see this repeated in Mark 2:23-28, when Jesus countered the Pharisee’s accusation that His disciples plucked at heads of grain to still their hunger on the Sabbath.
Instead of relying on their own human logic and carnal strategizing, the Israelites chose to completely obey God, without questioning His plans, nor His timing.
The Israelites exhibited tremendous endurance by persisting in following a plan day by day that didn’t make sense to them. This was remarkable, especially when you consider that walking around the walls of Jericho only exposed the Israelite’s apparently futile situation to the Children of God, which could only have attempted to whittle away at their insistence in obeying God.
These elements, together with the presence of a mighty and powerful God, made up the winning military strategy required to make the walls of Jericho fall down.
The sound of silence
Have you ever heard of the phrase “Speech is silver, but silence is golden?” Well in the Israelite’s case, silence played a key role in their victory.
Although it doesn’t specifically state in the Bible why God wanted the Israelites to march in silence – He could have equally required of them to sing and dance in worship, or march around praying loudly – the Israelite’s observation of silence demonstrates an important precedence for us all to come to God in silence. Instead of running around trying to solve our problems with our own strength, we need to come to rest and be still in God’s presence and draw on His strength.
“Be silent, all people, before the Lord; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
In addition, by being silent, while at the same time not exactly being told why, was a further act of obedience from the Children of God.
Finally, through the silence, the Israelite’s could better hear the trumpet fanfare that represented the voice of God, which helped them focus on God’s promise of victory for them.
On six and seven* – the significance of the numbers 6 and 7 in the Bible
When you read about God’s strategy for the Israelites to conquer Jericho, did the number 7 keeping popping out at you?
- 7 days
- 7 trips around the city walls
- 7 priests
- 7 horns
- The Israelites shout on the 7th day
Well, that is not a coincidence on God’s part. Numbers play a significant role in the Bible.
The number 7 is found 735 times in scripture. It represents completeness, perfection and the foundation of God.
When you think about what you already know about the number 7 from Sunday school or your own study of the Bible, the significance of this numeral makes sense: God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th – the Sabbath. Passover is celebrated in Israel, according to biblical tradition, for 7 days.
The number 7 is also represented in other ways in the Bible:
- According to the Hebrew calendar, God created Adam in the 7th month
- The bible is divided into 7 divisions:
1) the law
2) the prophets
3) the Psalms
4) Gospels and Acts
5) the (general) epistles
6) Paul’s epistles
7) The Book of Revelations
- Though this is still up for debate – The total number of original books of the bible was 49 – 7×7. Our modern translations incorporate 66 books – 39 in the Old Testament and 26 in the New Testament
- In the Book of Revelations, 7 churches (Revelations 1:11), 7 spirits of God and 7 stars (Revelations 3:1), 7 angels and 7 plagues (Revelations 15:1), 7 bowls (Revelation 16:1), 7 seals (Revelation 6:1–17) and 7 trumpets (Revelation 8:6) are signs of end times.
In comparison, the number 6 symbolizes man and his weakness:
- God created man on the 6th day
- In ancient times, Hebrew slaves were to serve 6 years and be released in the 7th year
- 6 (x3) is associated with Satan
For 6 days, the Israelites walked around the walls of Jericho and nothing happened. It was only when God intervened on the 7th day, did the walls fall down, thus completing the Israelite’s victory.
God has given the Israelites a purpose in Canaan, as well as a plan by which they can claim the land of milk and honey for their own. The Israelites know that they have to accept God’s plan with faith and carry it through with obedience, if they have any chance of conquering Jericho. However, there is one final thing they need to do, before they see the walls of the city fall down.
They needed to give an almighty shout of praise to their God!
*(From Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde)
Praise God before the breakthrough
Every Israelite – from the 7 Levite priests before the ark to the smallest child – obeyed God and walked in absolute silence around the walls of the fortified city of Jericho for 6 days.
The city encompassed an area of about 6.5 acres, so it didn’t take the Israelites long to march around the perimeter. However, it did give them ample opportunity to do a thorough reconnaissance of their enemy’s layout.
Being so close to Jericho’s infamous impregnable walls, the Israelites were confronted with just how colossal the task ahead of them was. Their proximity to the walls would have most likely put them in danger from an airborne attack of spears, slings or arrows from the Canaanites manning the parapets. At the least, the Israelites probably had to endure ridicule and jeering from the Canaanites, with the intention of intimidating them. Yet through all of this, they did not break their silence.
Until the 7th day.
On this day, God wanted the Israelites to shout – just once – before He made the walls fall down. And the shout was to be a response to the sound of the ram’s horn, which was supposed to be akin to His voice.
Why did God ask His people to that?
We established earlier that this was a spiritual battle and that God wanted to use the victory of Jericho to set a precedent for the surrounding nations.
God didn’t need the Israelite’s help – but He did want their partnership, which required them to show Him a visible sign of their faith. And what better way to show God your faith than by praising Him before you see a breakthrough?
This is what the Israelite’s one and only shout symbolized – that they believed God would keep His promise of victory, before they saw one stone from the wall of Jericho being dislodged and that He was their Lord, who would never fail them, nor forsake them.
Praising God before a breakthrough is also demonstrated in other biblical accounts: King Jehoshaphat sent men to sing and praise God before his battle against the combined armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir (2 Chronicles 20:20-22). In Acts 16:25-32, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in prison. In response, God brought about an earthquake that shook the foundations of the prison, released captives from their chains, and brought a Phillipian jailor to Christ.
And so, the Israelite’s raised their voices on Joshua’s command and shouted their praise to the Lord in faith:
“So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.”
And in response, God caused the walls of Jericho – the infamously impregnable walls of Jericho – to fall down.
However, the lesson of God’s promise doesn’t end here. The Israelite’s still need to fulfil God’s final commands in the captured city of Jericho, before they can claim their inheritance as the new leaders of the land of Canaan.
If you would like to learn more about what the Israelite’s get up to in their first days as the victors of Jericho, then feel free to join us in our next and final instalment of Part One of our Bible Study on Joshua 6, which we will publish soon.
In the weeks to come, we will be publishing the remaining parts of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study on Joshua 6: In Part Two – Living God’s Word, we will share with you how you can implement the lessons learned in Joshua 6 in your own life. In Part Three – Studying God’s Word, we will be offering study and discussion questions, reading material, and a prayer that you can use in your own small group or adapt to your own private study of Joshua 6.
Until then, stay blessed my friends!
bibleorg.com, “5. Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”
enduring word.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”
thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?”
christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”
desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan”
gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?”
thejc.com, “What is Pesach?”
Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation
Part 1.1: Understanding God’s Word – Bible Commentary on Joshua 6
The fall of the city of Jericho in Joshua 6 (NRSV) is one of my favorite biblical accounts, as it provides a wonderful testimony about what God can do when we act in obedience and faith. It also gives a clear insight into the difference between how we perceive our circumstances, in comparison to how God sees them.
We start this epic biblical account in the land of Canaan. Under the anointed leadership of Joshua, God has brought His people, the Israelites, out of their 40-year wilderness period in the desert of Sinai, by crossing over the Jordan River into Canaan (Joshua 3). Safe on the other side, the Israelites have set up camp in Gilgal, which borders to the east of the fortified city of Jericho.
The land of Canaan is significant to the Israelites, as it is the Promised Land, the heritage of the Israelites, that God had promised to Abraham when He made a covenant with Him (Genesis 15:18-21).
The only things is, the Promised Land is still occupied by the Canaanites, who are their enemies. In order to stake their claim as the new owners of the land, the Israelites need to defeat the Canaanites by taking the city of Jericho and claiming the fortress city for themselves.
The momentous task is the final and decisive step for the Israelites on a long journey to receiving the promise of God’s inheritance.
The Israelites had been enslaved in the bronze fetters of Pharaoh for 430 years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40-41). After their exodus from Egypt, they were then nomads for 40 years in the wilderness, which severely tested their faith (Numbers 32:13). Their steadfast leader Moses died and didn’t get to see the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 34:1-8), and all males who had been born in the desert had to be circumcised, even the adults (ouch).
One the other hand, the Israelites had also experienced signs, miracles and wonders of God’s provision: God parted the Red Sea for them so they could escape Pharaoh and his army (Exodus 14), and He provided them with manna and quail in the desert when they were hungry (Exodus 16). Through Moses, He gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s holy presence amongst His people.
Finally, God promoted Joshua, Moses’ second-in-command and one of the original 12 spies who scouted Canaan (Numbers 13:1-16), as the new leader of the Israelites. It was Joshua’s faith and obedience towards God that played a monumental role in the Israelite’s triumphant campaign in conquering Canaan, which lasted a total of 7 years.
Now, the Israelites are about to bear witness to another of God’s miracles – He is going to give them the city of Jericho – a fortress city which is reputed as being impregnable (Joshua 6:2-5) and is manned by a race of people well accustomed to warfare.
However, despite God’s promise of victory to make the walls of Jericho fall down, the Israelites still need to prepare themselves spiritually by obeying God’s laws. Moreover, they need to exercise their faith by holding on tightly to the promises that God has made them.
As an exception to our conventional layout of the Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies, this month, we are going to break down Part One further into three sub-segments, with each part analyzing a section of Joshua 6. Many of us are going through adversity right now and it is on our hearts to explore in depth how God is in fact with us, making walls fall down and providing the path to breakthrough, when all the while we hear is His silence.
We hope that this deeper analysis of Joshua 6 will give you comfort and encourage you that God hears your pleading and prayers, and has already made a way when you don’t see a way.
We will post the two remaining sub-segments on Thursday and next Monday respectively. In the following weeks we will also be looking at Part 2 – “Living God’s Word” and Part 3 – “Studying God’s Word” to complete our Bible study series on Joshua 6.
The importance of Jericho for the Israelites
So, before we look at how the Israelites overcame Jericho, we need to know why, out of all the cities in Canaan, did the Israelites choose this particular city as their first launch of attack in their campaign on the Promised Land?
Conquering Jericho was important to the Israelites for two reasons:
1. Jericho was part one of a three-part military campaign on Canaan
The northern and southern parts of Canaan were separated by a ridge of mountains running east to west. Jericho was situated at the gateway to this mountain ascent. In order to prevent a hostile approach into the hill country from the east, the city had been built as a military fortress with 12-17 ft walls, which were wide enough to cater chariots as an added defense feature. Inside the walls was a stone tower about 28 ft high.
The first part of the Israelite’s military strategy was to capture Jericho and thereby gain control of the central mountain ridge. This would effectively divide a wedge between the northern and southern parts of Canaan, thus dividing their enemy’s army in two. It would also ensure that the Israelite’s didn’t have any enemy forces right at their back once they entered the high country.
Following their conquest of the center of the land, the Israelites planned on executing the second part of their campaign, which was to attack the Canaanite armies to the south. Their third and final military goal was to overcome the more remote armies to the north.
2. God uses the fall of Jericho to show His power and that He keeps His promises
Ancient warfare tactics required weeks or even months to capture a city, however God delivers Jericho into the Israelite’s hands in just 7 days based on:
- His power
- His promise to His people to give them every place where they set foot and to always be with them (Joshua 1:1-5)
- The Israelite’s faith in God and their obedience in following His instructions
This is especially significant when you consider that the Israelites had previously failed to enter Canaan and confront their enemies due to a negative reconnaissance report from Moses’ spies (Numbers 13:25-29). They feared the Canaanites, believing them to be physically superior to them and their cities to be well fortified (Numbers 13:28). The inhabitants of Jericho were also seasoned warriors, armed to the teeth with military resources, whereas the Israelites were a nation of ex-slaves with no military experience.
This was indeed all true, but God uses these odds to show that the walls of Jericho can only fall down through His power and not by man’s prowess or strategizing. This should be an unusual achievement, a unique triumph that highlights the majesty, goodness, and might of God.
The victory of Jericho should not only be to encourage the Israelites that they can face anything that opposes them in Canaan, but it is to also send a message to the other nations of the glory and power of God.
God also wanted to show the Israelites the fulfilment of His promise that they would inherit Canaan, the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Leviticus 20:24). And God always keeps His promises.
Why the battle was won before it even began
When God leads you to experience a breakthrough or enter into a new level of spiritual promotion, He will line everything up in your favor. In the case of the Israelites, we see in three ways, how God had been laying the groundwork for their victory at Jericho long before they arrived at the fortified walls.
1. God has already given us the victory
The Israelites are preparing themselves for what could be the most impactful battle of their lives. Looking up at the walls and seeing their enemy leering down at them from the high parapets, l guess we can safely assume that they are feeling just a little bit nervous about the outcome of their undertaking, despite their faith in God. It’s only natural right?
However, God is totally relaxed, because He considers the battle to be already won. He says the following to Joshua:
‘“See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers.”’
Did you notice how God said, “I have handed Jericho over to you?” (emphasis mine). God is reassuring the leader of the Israelites that He has delivered Jericho in their hands, before they have even left their camp in Gilgal!
Hebrew scholars refer to this term as the prophetic perfect. It is a literary technique, which is most distinguishable in Hebrew and Aramaic translations of the Bible, where a future event is so sure to happen, that it is referred to in the past tense, as though it has already occurred.
This reassurance of God is a gift, an unmerited expression of God’s mercy and love. However, in order to receive this gift, the Israelites need to obey God’s commands to the letter.
2. God renews His covenant with the Israelites and prepares them for victory
God likes to plan – we just don’t always see it. Sometimes, when it appears that God has instantaneously answered our prayers, He has actually been preparing us for His provision and grace.
Since arriving in Canaan, God is preparing the Israelites spiritually for their onslaught on Jericho and consequently the rest of the land. Not only does He want the Israelites to commit to a covenant relationship with Him, He wants to train them to put their faith and obedience in Him. This is how God achieves this:
God instructs the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones in Gilgal
The Canaanites regarded the River Jordan as a natural defense. However, not only did the Israelites chose this route to enter into Canaan, they wanted to cross it during the harvest time, when the banks of the river were flooded over.
When God separated the waters and dried up the river bed in order for His people to cross over (Joshua 3:16-17), He instructed the Israelites to set up 12 memorial stones where they first set foot in Canaan, which was Gilgal. The stones were to serve as a reminder for future generations of the miracle of the River Jordan crossing and to let all the people of the earth know how mighty and fearful God was (Joshua 4:20-24)
God requests that all males born in the wilderness be circumcised.
The rite of circumcision was first performed by Abraham (Genesis 17:9-14), establishing the covenant relationship between God and Israel. However, the Israelites who had left Egypt had not continued with this covenant tradition in the wilderness.
Therefore, it was necessary for the Israelites to undergo circumcision in their camp at Gilgal, in order to seal a covenant with God and distinguish themselves as His chosen people. God also wanted to remove any taint of their former lives as slaves (Joshua 5:9). For this reason, Gilgal means “rolling”, as it was here that God rolled away the Israelite’s past.
Though undergoing circumcision meant that the Israelites needed a time-out in order to heal from their wounds, God was more concerned with establishing a spiritual bond between Himself and His people, rather than having the Israelites go to battle without His presence.
The Israelites were to observe the Passover
The Passover commemorates God’s deliverance of the Israelite’s from Egyptian slavery, as well as their new-found liberation as a nation. It comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, which means to pass over.
It was first observed while the Israelites were in Egypt, where God passed over the blood-smeared doorposts of the Israelites to kill every firstborn – human and animal alike (Exodus 12:1-28). It was God’s tenth and final plague against Pharaoh, a judgement issued to Egypt because Pharaoh refused to release God’s people from the bonds of slavery (Exodus 11:4-8). With the demise of his firstborn son, Pharaoh conceded defeat and released the Israelites from their bondage (Exodus 12:31-32).
39 years had passed since the Israelites had last observed the Passover, which had taken place in their second year in the wilderness. However, before the Israelites could face their enemies at Jericho, God required them to take up the Passover tradition once again (Joshua 5:10).
Not only did God want the Israelites to obey His laws as He had decreed them when the Israelites were on the brink of freedom, He wanted His people to remember how He had delivered them from their enemies in Egypt, before doing the same at Jericho.
God stopped providing manna and quail
As part of the keeping of Passover, the Israelites were required to have a feast. While they were in the wilderness, God had provided them with manna, which was similar to bread, as well as quail from heaven (Exodus 16:12). However, for Passover, they ate the rich produce of the land. From then on, God ceased providing them with manna and quail.
Why did He do this? For 40 years, God had generously provided the Israelites with a constant, albeit limited food source. Now, God was teaching them that there was abundance to be had in Canaan, but instead of it being presented to them every morning and twilight, God was training them to be self-sufficient (Philippians 4:11-12).
Joshua receives a Heavenly visit
This point is an important one. In Joshua 5:13-15, a Man with a drawn sword appeared near Joshua, as he was by Jericho. This was no ordinary man, but an angel of God’s army. Theologians call this kind of encounter a theophany, which is a heavenly visit from God in the Old Testament, where He takes the form of, but is not limited to, a human. Similar theophanies are to be found in Judges 6:12-22 and 2 Kings 6:17.
Joshua needed to take his shoes off, because he was standing on holy ground. Moses experienced the same in Exodus 3:5 when he was on Mount Horeb. Being on holy ground meant you were in the presence of God in the Old Testament, which was a rare and privileged experience.
Not only did the angel appear to reassure Joshua in his role of leader, but He wanted to make it clear to Joshua, that He was not there to be on the Israelite’s side; rather, the Israelites needed to side with God if they wanted victory.
The angel also wanted to make it clear that this was God’s battle and consequent victory and would therefore be won on His terms, for His glory (Joshua 6:16-17).
God has already planted a weakness behind the enemy lines
If Jericho had been nigh impossible to penetrate in the past, it was even more so now. On seeing the Israelites, the inhabitants of the fortress city have gone into lockdown mode.
Word of the Red Sea parting and the miracle of the Jordan River crossing have reached the ears of the citizens of Jericho (Joshua 2:10). Though the Israelites may not be seasoned warriors such as themselves, the Canaanites acknowledge that the Israelite attack is not to be taken lightly.
The people of Jericho don’t want to follow God, and yet they know of the promise He has made to the Israelites to take their land away from them, which has them shivering in their leather sandals (Joshua 2:9). The entire city of Jericho is determined to shut the presence of God out – literally and spiritually and is thereby on full alert.
However, what the Canaanites don’t know, is that God has already compromised the impregnable defences of the city in a manner that no one could have reckoned with – through a prostitute named Rahab.
After Moses’ failed attempt at a reconnaissance trip (Numbers 13:25-29), Joshua sent two men on a second scouting expedition – but this time in secret (Joshua 2:1)). The presence of the two spies was quickly found out and the king of Jericho issued orders for the men to be found.
At the risk of her own life, Rahab offered the two Israelites refuge by hiding them on the roof of her house under stalks of flax. When the king of Jericho sent his men to Rahab with the request to hand over the men, she told the king’s officials that the Israelite’s had already left.
God literally placed a weakness in the wall, as Rahab’s house was built into the defensive stone exterior (Joshua 2:15). After the city’s gate had been shut for the night, Rahab let a rope out of her window, which the two Israelite’s used to flee the city.
Why did Rahab decide to help the spies?
- She was the only one in Jericho that understood that God reigns supreme above all powers in heaven and on earth (Joshua 2:11)
- She knew that with God on the Israelite’s side, the fall of Jericho was inevitable
- With that in mind, Rahab wanted to switch sides and declare her allegiance to God in faith (Joshua 2:11)
- Rahab was securing her family’s survival: In return for helping the spies escape the city, Rahab wanted the Israelite’s promise that they would spare her life and the lives of her family once Jericho was theirs (Joshua 2:13).
Due to Rahab’s assistance, the 2 spies were able to make it back safely to the Israelite camp and pass on the intel they had gathered, including Rahab’s allegiance. They now had a (wo)man on the inside!
We hope you enjoyed reading Part 1.1 of our Jacob’s Ladder Bible commentary on Joshua 6 “Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation”.
If so, feel free to join us when we post Part 1.2 “Faith, obedience, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan”.
Until, then may God’s blessings be upon you!
enduringword.com, “Joshua 6 – The fall of Jericho”
blueletterbible.org, “The fall of Jericho”
bible.org, “Destroying Fortresses; Victory at Jericho (Joshua 6:1-27)”
thetorah.com, “How Many Years Were the Israelites in Egypt?”
christiancourier.com, “Joshua 6:2, 16 – The Gift of Jericho”
desiringgod.org, “The Conquest of Canaan”
gotquestions.org, “Who was Joshua in the Bible?”
thejc.com, “What is Pesach?”
At Jacob’s Ladder, it is very much on our hearts that everyone who has given their life to Christ, or is seeking to know Him more, understands that the Bible entails important information that can enable us to live a life of faith and victory, as beloved Children of God.
For that reason, we choose a Bible chapter for every theme we explore, and present a Bible Study on it for you.
How we structure our Bible Studies
Every Jacob’s Ladder Bible Study is composed of three parts:
Part One – Understanding God’s Word
In Part One, we break down the Bible chapter we are studying into verses and explain the meaning of each of them. We also discuss the history behind the chapter, what lessons we can derive from this biblical teaching, and other relevant information to help you understand God’s Word.
Part Two – Living God’s Word
Now that we understand what the Bible chapter we are studying is about, we will explore how we can adapt the lessons we learned to lead faith-filled, joyous, and abundant lives, and fulfill the promises and blessings that God has for us.
Part Three – Studying God’s Word
For those of you who would like to delve even deeper into the biblical themes discussed in Parts One and Two, either for private study purposes or for a group setting, then this section is for you.
Included in this section are the following:
- Discussions questions
- Testimony topics
- Praise and Worship advice including information about our Spotify playlists
- Suggested reading topics including Scriptures, related Bible chapters, and related articles
- Journal writing topics
- A prayer
List of Jacob’s Ladder Bible Studies
The following is a list of Bible Studies that we have written. They are in biblical chronological order:
Part One – Understanding God’s Word: “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”
Part Two – Living God’s Word: Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings
Part Three – Studying God’s Word: “Why being defeated by God can lead to His blessings”
Part One – Understanding God’s Word: As an exception, we have further divided this part of our Bible Study into three sections:
Part 1.1: “Before the walls fell down: The promise and the preparation”
Part 1.2: ” Faith, obedience, endurance, and praise – the secret behind God’s military plan”
Part 1.3: “Victory, first fruits, judgement, and salvation – The occupation of Jericho”
Part Two – Living God’s Word: “Partnering with God to live a victorious life”
Part Three – Studying God’s Word: “God does His best work in the silence”
Part One – Understanding God’s Word: “Knowing who you are in Christ”
Part Two – Living God’s Word: “Knowing who you are in Christ”
Part Three – Studying God’s Word: “Knowing who you are in Christ”
We hope you enjoy our Bible Studies and that they help you deepen your understanding of God and enrich your faith walk with Him!