Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.Joshua 6:1. Now Jericho] This verse is strictly parenthetical, and states the Historical circumstance which gave occasion for this Divine intervention.
was straitly shut up] Vulg. “clausa erat atque munita.” “Was closid and waardid,” Wyclif Straitly = strictly, closely. Comp. Genesis 43:7, “The man asked us straitly of our state.” Shakespeare, Richard 3. Ι:Ι. 85, 86:
“His majesty hath straitly given in charge,
That no man shall have private conference.”
And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.2. And the Lord said] The interview between the Hebrew leader and “the Prince of Jehovah’s host” is here resumed.
See, I have given] Compare for a similar expression Joshua 11:6. As Israel had stood on the shores of the Red Sea and seen “the salvation of God,” so now they were themselves to adopt no warlike measures for the capture of the city, everything was to be done for them, not by them: the victory when achieved was to be one, “into which no feeling of pride or self-exaltation could enter.”
And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.3. ye shall compass the city] The scene to be witnessed from the walls of Jericho, was calculated in the most striking manner to appeal to the consciences of all who should see it:
(a) First in solemn procession were to advance armed men:
(b) Then would follow seven priests blowing continually, not the customary silver trumpets, but large horns:
(c) Thus heralded, was to follow the Ark of Jehovah borne by the priests:
(d) Then were to follow “the rereward” of Israel.
Six days was this strange procession to encompass the walls of Jericho, passing round in solemn silence, save for the long-drawn blasts of the horns. But on the seventh day, the city was to be encompassed seven times, and at the seventh the people were to shout, and it was promised that the city should “fall down flat,” and its destruction would be complete. “The ark of God, with the tables of stone from Sinai hidden within, was the genius, I had almost said the general, of that mysterious march: it was made plain by every token, that God, not man, was at work. Their priests were officiating, with the emblems of festival, not of warfare—“the trumpets of jubilee”—in their hands; before them armed hosts heralding, behind them armed hosts attending, the progress of the true Champion, the representative of the God of battles, to whose presence alone the coming victory was to be due.” Dr Vaughan’s Heroes of Faith, p. 253.
And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.4. trumpets of rams’ horns] Rather, trumpets of soundings, or, of jubilee; “seuen trompes, vhose use is in the jubile.” Not the long straight trumpets generally used, but the same kind that were to be employed on the first day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:24), and to announce the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:9). This instrument was curved, and would be more accurately rendered “cornet,” as in 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Psalm 98:6; Hosea 5:8; Daniel 3:5.
seven] Observe the significance here of the number: seven priests; seven horns; seven days of compassing the walls; seven repetitions of it on the seventh day. The influence of the number “seven” was not restricted to the Hebrews. It prevailed among the Persians (Esther 1:10; Esther 1:14), among the ancient Indians, to a certain extent among the Greeks and Romans, and probably among all nations where the week of seven days was established, as in Egypt, Arabia, China. Amongst the Hebrews seven days were appointed as the length of the Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles; seven days for the ceremonies of the consecration of priests; seven victims were to be offered on any special occasion; and at the ratification of a treaty, the notion of seven was embodied in the very term signifying to swear, literally meaning to do seven times (Genesis 21:28). The number seven was thus impressed with the seal of sanctity as the symbol of all connected with the Deity, with the subordinate notions of perfection or completeness. See Smith’s Bibl. Dict. Art. “Seven.”
And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye 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.5. every man straight before him] Over the prostrate walls the Israelites were to advance into Jericho, and “each one straight forward,” so that, as far as possible, their order should be preserved. Compare the march of the locusts as described by Joel 2:7, “like men of war they climb a wall, and every one marches on his way.”
And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD.6–21. Capture and Destruction of Jericho
6. And Joshua] In obedience to the commands thus received Joshua implicitly carries out the instructions given him and issues the needful orders to the host.
And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.
And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.
And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.9. the rereward] The remaining warriors were to act as a rearguard. During the march through the wilderness this duty devolved on the tribe of Dan (see Numbers 10:25). “Rereward” means the “rearguard” of an army; guard and ward being related as guise and wise, Fr. guerre, and E. war. It is a corruption of the Fr. arrière-garde, as vanguard for avant-garde; or rather the first part of the word is formed from the O. Fr. riere (Lat. retro). Comp. 1 Samuel 29:2, “but David and his men passed on in the rereward with Achish;” Isaiah 52:12, “the God of Israel will be your rereward;” Isaiah 58:8, “the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward;” Shakespeare, Ι.Hen. 6. 3. 3,
“Now in the rearward comes the duke, and his;”
Rom. and Jul. 3.2,
“But with a rearward following Tybalt’s death,
Romeo is banished.”
And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.10. Ye shall not shout] These instructions demanded the exercise of the utmost self-control, and the exercise also of signal trust in Him, Who had appointed such a mysterious method for the capture of the city.
So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.11. and they came into the camp] On the evening of the first day and the six succeeding days they returned to their encampment at Gilgal to spend the night.
And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.
And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.15. about the dawning of the day] On this day the circuit had to be made seven times, and therefore the march had to be commenced very early.
And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.
And 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.17. the city shall be accursed] “be this cyte cursid” (Wyclif), or, as in margin, devoted. The verb from which the word comes denotes (i) to cut off, (ii) to devote, to withdraw from common use and consecrate to God = sacrare. (i) The word itself, used actively, means the devotement of anything by Jehovah, His putting it under a ban, the result of which is destruction; comp. 1 Kings 20:42, “Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction;” Isaiah 34:5, “Behold, it (my sword) shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment;” Zechariah 14:11, “there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.” (ii) And passively, the word denotes the thing devoted, doomed, laid under the ban, i.e. devoted to Jehovah without the possibility of being redeemed; comp. Leviticus 27:21, “But the field, when it goeth out in the jubilee, shall be holy unto the Lord, as a field devoted;” Leviticus 27:29, “None devoted, which shall be devoted of men, shall be redeemed.” The word is used here in the latter sense, and in Joshua 6:17-18, with which compare Joshua 7:1, “Achan … took of the accursed thing,” and 1 Samuel 15:3-9. The Greek word with the same meaning, Anathema, frequently occurs in St Paul’s writings, comp. Romans 9:3, “I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren;” 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema;” comp. also 1 Corinthians 12:3; Galatians 1:9. We find similar instances of devotion to utter destruction amongst other nations; comp. (a) the Ver sacrum of the Romans, so frequently alluded to in Livy, as 22:9-10; 34:44; (b) Cæsar’s testimony concerning the Gauls, Bell. Gall. vi. 17, “Huic (Marti), cum prælio dimicare constituerunt, ea quæ bello ceperint, plerumque devovent; cum superaverunt, animalia capta immolant;” (c) Tacitus (Ann. 13:57) tells us of the Hermunduri that they were successful in a war against the Catti, “quia victores diversam aciem Marti ac Mercurio sacravere, quo voto equi, viri, cuncta victa occidioni dantur;” (d) Livy 3:55 mentions a law passed under the consuls L. Valerius and M. Horatius, “ut qui tribunis plebis, ædilibus, judicibus, decemviris nocuisset, ejus caput Jovi sacrum esset; familia ad ædem Cereris Liberi Liberæque venum iret.”
only Rahab the harlot] See above, Joshua 2:1; Joshua 2:18-19.
And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.18. in any wise keep yourselves] A warning, which Achan neglected to the destruction of himself and his family. See chap. 7.
But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.19. are consecrated] Or, as in the margin, are holiness unto the Lord: “to ye Lord be it halowid,” Wyclif.
into the treasury of the Lord] Comp. Numbers 31:22-23; Numbers 31:50-54. In the case of Jericho, the whole city, with all that it contained, was cherem or “devoted.”
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.20. the wall fell down flat] No hand of man interposed to bring about this catastrophe, no merely natural causes precipitated the fall; “by faith,” as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, “the walls of Jericho fell down” (Hebrews 11:30). “When we examine the operation of faith in this instance, we shall see the point of the example to be in the refraining from action at the bidding of God. The impulse of nature was to attack the city; to try upon its bulwarks the skill of military science, as then understood, as by them possessed. The power of faith was shown in curbing that impulse; in submitting to an unexplained, unintelligible, severely trying, edict of inactivity; nay in consenting to play what must have seemed a ridiculous part, in the face of a warlike and disciplined host, waiting to see what this intrusive, this presumptuous horde of rovers had to say for itself.” To escort the Ark, “day after day for a whole week, round and round the ramparts of Jericho, crowded doubtless with armed spectators; to do this with a ceremonial which could be imposing only to themselves—which must have been not so much mysterious as ludicrous to the established ideas of the world, and even to those ‘thoughts of the heart’ which are busy in all of us, and which are the peculiar property neither of Jew nor Greek—must have taxed to the uttermost farthing the loyalty, the religion, and the moral courage of Israel; we can scarcely explain it otherwise than by saying that it was ‘by faith,’ in other words, that their apprehension of the invisible rose above the counteracting influences of the present, and enabled them to say within themselves, ‘We ought to obey God rather than man.’ ” Dr Vaughan’s Heroes of Faith, p. 257.
And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.21. they utterly destroyed] In the instance of the other cities of Canaan, as in those of Sihon and Og, the inhabitants were destroyed, but he cattle were preserved. Comp. (a) Joshua 8:26; Joshua 10:28; (b) Deuteronomy 2:34; Deuteronomy 3:6. In the case of Jericho not only the inhabitants, but the cattle also were destroyed.
the edge of the sword] Comp. Genesis 34:26, and many places in Joshua.
But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.22–25. The Rescue of Rahab
22. Go into the harlot’s house] We are told that Rahab’s house was upon the town wall, and that she dwelt upon the wall. But though the walls of Jericho fell down flat, her house was preserved. They fell by faith, and she was saved by faith (Hebrews 11:30-31).
as ye sware unto her] See above, Joshua 2:14.
And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.23. the young men] Vulg. juvenes. Comp. Genesis 22:3, “And Abraham rose up early … and took two of his young men with him;” Jdg 8:20, “And he said unto Jether his firstborn, Up, and slay them. But the youth drew not his sword.”
all her kindred] Heb. families.
without the camp of Israel] Comp. Leviticus 24:14; Numbers 31:19. As heathen, they were unclean, and must therefore remain a specified time, probably seven days, “without the camp.”
And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.25. she dwelleth in Israel] These words do not necessarily imply that she was alive at the time the Book of Joshua was written, but that the family of strangers, of which she was reckoned the head, continued to dwell among the children of Israel. She married Salmon, of the tribe of Judah, and became the ancestress of Boaz, the husband of Ruth. See Matthew 1:5. Her reception into the Jewish Church, and her mention in the genealogy of Christ, were a pledge and earnest of the reception of the Gentile world, and of the grafting of the wild olive into the good olive-tree (Romans 11:24).
And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.26, 27. The Curse upon Jericho
26. adjured them] i.e. “put an oath upon them.”
Cursed be the man] A city, which was cherem or “devoted,” could not be rebuilt, Deuteronomy 13:15-17. Joshua therefore pronounces an imprecation on the foundation of Jericho. The words “have a rhythmical and antistrophical form; which was probably adopted for greater solemnity, and to impress them more deeply on the memories of the people.” Bp Wordsworth.
and buildeth] So Agamemnon is said to have uttered a curse upon Ilium, and Scipio upon Carthage. Here the curse is to be understood as extending only to the walls and gates of Jericho, or a fortified place, on which, as bidding proud defiance to the host, the attention of Joshua, as a military leader, would chiefly fasten. Comp. 1 Kings 15:17; 2 Chronicles 11:5. He himself gave it to the Benjamites (Joshua 18:21), and it was inhabited in the time of the Judges (Jdg 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5).
he shall lay the foundation] What the prophecy foretells is that the beginning of the building would be marked by the death of the builder’s eldest son, and the end of it by the death of his youngest. Comp. Jos. Antiq. 5:1. 8. In the ungodly reign of Ahab the prophecy was fulfilled; Hiel, a native of Bethel, “built 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 spake by Joshua” (1 Kings 16:34). Observe the incidents connected with Jericho in the life of the Antitype of the first Joshua. Here He entered into the house of Zacchæus (Luke 19:5; Luke 19:9); here He healed blind Bartimæus (Mark 10:46; Mark 10:52); He mentioned Jericho in the parable of “the Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:30); in the vicinity of the city He repeated the announcement of His coming sufferings (Luke 18:31).
So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.27. So the Lord was with Joshua] He and He alone had achieved the victory for His people, and they had “stood still” and “seen the salvation of Jehovah” (Exodus 14:13; 2 Chronicles 20:17):—
(a) The entrance into Canaan itself had been effected by the miraculous receding of the waters of the Jordan;
(b) The walls of the city had fallen down flat, not before Israel, but before the Ark of Jehovah, Whose presence was ever connected with its golden Mercy-Seat;
(c) When it had been bestowed upon the people as a free gift, without any effort on their part, all that it contained was devoted entirely to the Lord, nothing in the way of gain was to be made out of it;
(d) The means they had been allowed to employ as preliminary to the capture were such as could not fail to make them a scorn and derision to the proud warriors of the Doomed City, and so called into exercise, in a striking degree, their faith, patience, and obedience.