Joshua 6:17
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.
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(17) The city shall be accursed.—Heb., shall be chêrem, “a devoted or accursed thing”; and so Joshua 6:18, “from the accursed thing.” (See Note on Deuteronomy 7:26.) The combination of the two ideas of devotion to God and utter destruction may be seen in the sin offering (Leviticus 6:25), which is called “holy of holies,” or most holy, and yet, when offered for the priest or congregation, must be utterly consumed.

Joshua 6:17. The city shall be accursed — to the Lord — That is, devoted to destruction, by the right which God has to punish such as offend against him. This he speaks by direction from God, (see 1 Kings 16:34,) whose will it was that every thing in Jericho should be utterly destroyed, as well inanimate things by burning them, &c, as men and cattle, by the edge of the sword; excepting only the things that were found in the house of Rahab, and the vessels of silver and gold, brass and iron, which were to be consecrated to the Lord, and put into the treasury of the tabernacle. God seems to have caused the first spoils made in the land of Canaan to be dedicated to his use, 1st, Because the first-fruits were appropriated to him as his due; 2d, To signify that he was their leader, and that these victories were owing to him; 3d, Lest the soldiers, being glutted with the spoil of this rich city, should grow sluggish in their work; and, 4th, That on entering the land of Canaan they might be made thoroughly to understand that they had no right to the riches of that country but what he gave them; and that he would always keep to himself the power of restraining that right as he should see proper. In the mean time the severity enjoined to be exercised toward the persons of the people of the city, in putting them to the sword, was undoubtedly worthy of his infinite wisdom, as well as suitable to his holiness and justice: while it struck a terror into the rest of their enemies, it might determine them to prevent, by accepting of peace, or by flight, a punishment which their enormous and wilful crimes had otherwise rendered unavoidable.

6:17-27 Jericho was to be a solemn and awful sacrifice to the justice of God, upon those who had filled up the measure of their sins. So He appoints, from whom, as creatures, they received their lives, and to whom, as sinners, they had forfeited them. Rahab perished not with them that believed not, Heb 11:31. All her kindred were saved with her; thus faith in Christ brings salvation to the house, Ac 14:31. She, and they with her, were plucked as brands from the burning. With Rahab, or with the men of Jericho; our portion must be assigned, as we posses or disregard the sign of salvation; even faith in Christ, which worketh by love. Let us remember what depends upon our choice, and let us choose accordingly. God shows the weight of a Divine curse; where it rests there is no getting from under it; for it brings ruin without remedy.Accursed - Better as in margin, ("devoted" (Leviticus 27:28 note). In other cases the inhabitants only of the towns were slain; their cattle and property became the booty of the victors. But Jericho, as the first Canaanite city that was captured, was devoted by Israel as first-fruits to God, as a token that Israel received all the land from Him. Every living thing was put to death (Rahab and her household excepted) as a sacrifice to God, and the indestructible goods were Joshua 6:19 brought into the treasury of the sanctuary. 17-19. And the city shall be accursed—(See on [181]Le 27:28). The cherem, or "anathema," was a devotion to utter destruction (De 7:2; 20:17; 1Sa 15:3). When such a ban was pronounced against a hostile city, the men and animals were killed—no booty was allowed to be taken. The idols and all the precious ornaments on them were to be burned (De 7:25; compare 1Ch 14:12). Everything was either to be destroyed or consecrated to the sanctuary. Joshua pronounced this ban on Jericho, a great and wealthy city, evidently by divine direction. The severity of the doom, accordant with the requirements of a law which was holy, just, and good, was justified, not only by the fact of its inhabitants being part of a race who had filled up their iniquities, but by their resisting the light of the recent astonishing miracle at the Jordan. Besides, as Jericho seems to have been defended by reinforcements from all the country (Jos 24:11), its destruction would paralyze all the rest of the devoted people, and thus tend to facilitate the conquest of the land; showing, as so astounding a military miracle did, that it was done, not by man, but by the power and through the anger, of God. Accursed, i.e. devoted to utter destruction, Leviticus 27:21,29 Deu 12. This he spake by instinct or direction from God, as is evident from 1 Kings 16:34.

To the Lord; partly, because the first-fruits were appropriated to God; partly, lest the soldiers being glutted with the spoil of this rich city, should grow sensual and sluggish in their work; and partly, to strike the greater terror into the rest of their enemies.

And the city shall be accursed,.... Or, be a "cherem", devoted to the Lord, as it follows:

even it and all that are therein, to the Lord; the city and the inhabitants of it should be devoted to destruction, and the riches and spoil of it dedicated to sacred uses, and not become the property of the Israelites; for as this was the first city in the had of Canaan that was conquered, it was fit the firstfruits of the conquest should be the Lord's, as an acknowledgment of his gift of the land unto them, and that the conquest of it was owing to him; though it might be some mortification to the Israelites, and a trial of their faith and obedience, that the first and so fine a city should not become their habitation, but be utterly destroyed, and not to be built more; and all the riches of it either consumed, or converted to other uses, and not their own. This Joshua thought fit to declare to the Israelites, before the taking of the city, that they might know what they had to do. The Jewish doctors generally suppose that Joshua ordered this of himself, of his own accord and will; but Kimchi is of opinion that the Lord gave him this order, which is most probable, yea, certain from Joshua 7:11,

only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house; she and her father's family, as she requested, and the spies promised; here the Targum calls her, as elsewhere, Rahab the innkeeper or victualler; and so in Joshua 6:22,

because she hid the messengers that we sent; and so preserved them from being taken by the messengers of the king of Jericho, who were sent in pursuit of them. These though sent only by Joshua, without the knowledge of the people, yet it being on their account, and their good, and by him as their head and governor, is ascribed to them also. This fact of Rahab's is observed by him as a reason for sparing her, and those that were with her, when all the rest would be put to the sword; and is mentioned as an instance of her faith, and of the evidence of it, Hebrews 11:31.

And the city shall be {l} 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.

(l) That is appointed wholly to be destroyed.

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.

Verse 17. - Accursed. Rather, devotea, ἀναθεμα LXX. The original meaning of this word is derived from הרם to "shut up." Hence it originally means "a net." With this we may compare the well known Eastern word harem, meaning the enclosed apartments reserved for the women of the family. Hence it comes to mean under a ban, devoted, generally to utter destruction under the pressure of a vow to God, as in Numbers 21:2, or in consequence of His command (see Leviticus 27:29; Deuteronomy 13:15 (Hebrew 16); 1 Kings 20:42, "the man of my devoting," חֶרְמִי, etc). But in Leviticus 27:21, Numbers 18:14, the חֵרֵמ as devoted to the Lord, became the property of the priest. This ban was the most solemn and tremendous religious sentence, the absolute and final excommunication of the old law. The sin of Saul (1 Samuel 15.) was the sparing of anything whatever in the city which had been laid under the ban - a ban which Saul had been specially commanded to execute (1 Samuel 15:3) according to the principles laid down in Deuteronomy 13. When Keil, however, states that the ban "could never be pronounced upon things and property alone, but only upon open idolaters, either with or without their possessions," he appears to have overlooked Leviticus 27:16-21, where a man may devote irredeemably to God property of his own (cf. ver. 28 of the same chapter). In his subsequent work, however, Keil qualifies this assertion by a consideration of this very passage. Idolatrous worship was the one thing which justified the Israelites in laying one of their own cities under the ban (see Deuteronomy 13:12 18, above cited). But (Deuteronomy 7:2) it had been pronounced against the Canaanites. Property, how. ever, save in the case of Jericho, seems to have been exempted from the ban (see Joshua 8:2). Even at Jericho the silver and the gold, the brass and the iron, were placed in the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 5:19, 24). "Why," says Theodoret, "was the city thus devoted? It was devoted on the same principle which offered the first fruits to God, since it was the first fruits of their conquests." Because she hid. See for the peculiar form of this word as though it came from a quadriliteral הבאה Joshua 6:17On the seventh day the marching round the town commenced very early, at the dawning of the day, that they might go round seven times. כּמּשׁפּט, in the manner prescribed and carried out on the previous days, which had become a right through precept and practice. On the seventh circuit, when the priests had blown the trumpet, Joshua commanded the fighting men to raise a war-cry, announcing to them at the same time that the town, with all that was in it, was to be a ban to the Lord, with the exception of Rahab and the persons in her house, and warning them not to take of that which was laid under the ban, that they might not bring a ban upon the camp of Israel. The construction in v. 16, "it came to pass at the seventh time the priests had blown the trumpets, then Joshua said, ... " is more spirited than if the conjunction כּאשׁר had been used before תּקעוּ, or בּתקוע had been used. Because the Lord had given Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, they were to consecrate it to Him as a ban (cherem), i.e., as a holy thing belonging to Jehovah, which was not to be touched by man, as being the first-fruits of the land of Canaan. (On cherem, see the remarks at Leviticus 27:28-29.) Rahab alone was excepted from this ban, along with all that belonged to her, because she had hidden the spies. The inhabitants of an idolatrous town laid under the ban were to be put to death, together with their cattle, and all the property in the town to be burned, as Moses himself had enjoined on the basis of the law in Leviticus 27:29. The only exceptions were metals, gold, silver, and the vessels of brass and iron; these were to be brought into the treasury of the Lord, i.e., the treasury of the tabernacle, as being holy to the Lord (Joshua 6:19; vid., Numbers 31:54). Whoever took to himself anything that had been laid under the ban, exposed himself to the ban, not only because he had brought an abomination into his house, as Moses observes in Deuteronomy 7:25, in relation to the gold and silver of idols, but because he had wickedly invaded the rights of the Lord, by appropriating that which had been laid under the ban, and had wantonly violated the ban itself. The words, "beware of the ban, that ye do not ban and take of the ban" (Joshua 6:18), point to this. As Lud. de Dieu observes, "the two things were altogether incompatible, to devote everything to God, and yet to apply a portion to their own private use; either the thing should not have been devoted, or having been devoted, it was their duty to abstain from it." Any such appropriation of what had been laid under the ban would make the camp of Israel itself a ban, and trouble it, i.e., bring it into trouble (conturbare, cf. Genesis 34:30). In consequence of the trumpet-blast and the war-cry raised by the people, the walls of the town fell together, and the Israelites rushed into the town and took it, as had been foretold in Joshua 6:5. The position of העם ויּרע is not to be understood as signifying that the people had raised the war-cry before the trumpet-blast, but may be explained on the ground, that in his instructions in Joshua 6:16 Joshua had only mentioned the shouting. But any misinterpretation is prevented by the fact, that it is expressly stated immediately afterwards, that the people did not raise the great shout till they heard the trumpet-blast.

As far as the event itself is concerned, the difference attempts which have been made to explain the miraculous overthrow of the walls of Jericho as a natural occurrence, whether by an earthquake, or by mining, or by sudden storming, for which the inhabitants, who had been thrown into a false security by the marvellous procession repeated day after day for several days, were quite unprepared (as Ewald has tried to explain the miracle away), really deserve no serious refutation, being all of them arbitrarily forced upon the text. It is only from the naturalistic stand-point that the miracle could ever be denied; for it not only follows most appropriately upon the miraculous guidance of Israel through the Jordan, but is in perfect harmony with the purpose and spirit of the divine plan of salvation. "It is impossible," says Hess, "to imagine a more striking way, in which it could have been shown to the Israelites that Jehovah had given them the town. Now the river must retire to give them an entrance into the land, and now again the wall of the town must fall to make an opening into a fortified place. Two such decisive proofs of the co-operation of Jehovah so shortly after Moses' death, must have furnished a pledge, even to the most sensual, that the same God was with them who had led their fathers so mightily and so miraculously through the Read Sea." That this was in part the intention of the miracle, we learn from the close of the narrative (Joshua 6:27). But this does not explain the true object of the miracle, or the reason why God gave up this town to the Israelites without any fighting on their part, through the miraculous overthrow of their walls. The reason for this we have to look for in the fact that Jericho was not only the first, but the strongest town of Canaan, and as such was the key to the conquest of the whole land, the possession of which would open the way to the whole, and give the whole, as it were, into their hands. The Lord would give His people the first and strongest town of Canaan, as the first-fruits of the land, without any effort on their part, as a sign that He was about to give them the whole land for a possession, according to His promise; in order that they might not regard the conquest of it as their own work, or the fruit of their own exertions, and look upon the land as a well-merited possession which they could do as they pleased with, but that they might ever use it as a gracious gift from the Lord, which he had merely conferred upon them as a trust, and which He could take away again, whenever they might fall from Him, and render themselves unworthy of His grace. This design on the part of God would of necessity become very obvious in the case of so strongly fortified a town as Jericho, whose walls would appear impregnable to a people that had grown up in the desert and was so utterly without experience in the art of besieging or storming fortified places, and in fact would necessarily remain impregnable, at all events for a long time, without the interposition of God. But if this was the reason why the Lord gave up Jericho to the Israelites by a miracle, it does not explain either the connection between the blast of trumpets or the war-cry of the people and the falling of the walls, or the reason for the divine instructions that the town was to be marched round every day for seven days, and seven times on the seventh day. Yet as this was an appointment of divine wisdom, it must have had some meaning.

The significance of this repeated marching round the town culminates unquestionably in the ark of the covenant and the trumpet-blast of the priests who went before the ark. In the account before us the ark is constantly called the ark of the Lord, to show that the Lord, who was enthroned upon the cherubim of the ark, was going round the hostile town in the midst of His people; whilst in Joshua 6:8 Jehovah himself is mentioned in the place of the ark of Jehovah. Seven priests went before the ark, bearing jubilee trumpets and blowing during the march. The first time that we read of a trumpet-blast is at Sinai, where the Lord announced His descent upon the mount to the people assembled at the foot to receive Him, not only by other fearful phenomena, but also by a loud and long-continued trumpet-blast (Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:14-18). After this we find the blowing of trumpets prescribed as part of the Israelitish worship in connection with the observance of the seventh new moon's day (Leviticus 23:24), and at the proclamation of the great year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:9). Just as the trumpet-blast heard by the people when the covenant was made at Sinai was as it were a herald's call, announcing to the tribes of Israel the arrival of the Lord their God to complete His covenant and establish His kingdom upon earth; so the blowing of trumpets in connection with the round of feasts was intended partly to bring the people into remembrance before the Lord year by year at the commencement of the sabbatical month, that He might come to them and grant them the Sabbath rest of His kingdom, and partly at the end of every seven times seven years to announce on the great day of atonement the coming of the great year of grace and freedom, which was to bring to the people of God deliverance from bondage, return to their own possessions, and deliverance from the bitter labours of this earth, and to give them a foretaste of the blessed and glorious liberty to which the children of God would attain at the return of the Lord to perfect His kingdom (vid., Pentateuch, pp. 631f.). But when the Lord comes to found, to build up, and to perfect His kingdom upon earth, He also comes to overthrow and destroy the worldly power which opposes His kingdom. The revelation of the grace and mercy of God to His children, goes ever side by side with the revelation of justice and judgment towards the ungodly who are His foes. If therefore the blast of trumpets was the signal to the congregation of Israel of the gracious arrival of the Lord its God to enter into fellowship with it, no less did it proclaim the advent of judgment to an ungodly world. This shows clearly enough the meaning of the trumpet-blast at Jericho. The priests, who went before the ark of the covenant (the visible throne of the invisible God who dwelt among His people) and in the midst of the hosts of Israel, were to announce through the blast of trumpets both to the Israelites and Canaanites the appearance of the Lord of the whole earth for judgment upon Jericho, the strong bulwark of the Canaanitish power and rule, and to foretel to them through the falling of the walls of this fortification, which followed the blast of trumpets and the wary-cry of the soldiers of God, the overthrow of all the strong bulwarks of an ungodly world through the omnipotence of the Lord of heaven and earth. Thus the fall of Jericho became the symbol and type of the overthrow of every worldly power before the Lord, when He should come to lead His people into Canaan and establish His kingdom upon earth. On the ground of this event, the blowing of trumpets is frequently introduced in the writings of the prophets, as the signal and symbolical omen of the manifestations of the Lord in great judgments, through which He destroys one worldly power after another, and thus maintains and extends His kingdom upon earth, and leads it on towards that completion to which it will eventually attain when He descends from heaven in His glory at the time of the last trump, with a great shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, to raise the dead and change the living, to judge the world, cast the devil, death, and hell into the lake of fire, create a new heaven and new earth, and in the new Jerusalem erect the tabernacle of God among men for all eternity (1 Corinthians 15:51.; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 20:1; 21).

The appointment of the march round Jericho, which was to be continued for seven days, and to be repeated seven times on the seventh day, was equally significant. The number seven is a symbol in the Scriptures of the work of God and of the perfection already produced or to be eventually secured by Him; a symbol founded upon the creation of the world in six days, and the completion of the works of creation by the resting of God upon the seventh day. Through this arrangement, that the walls of Jericho were not to fall till after they had been marched round for seven days, and not till after this had been repeated seven times on the seventh day, and then amidst the blast of the jubilee trumpets and the war-cry of the soldiers of the people of God, the destruction of this town, the key to Canaan, was intended by God to become a type of the final destruction at the last day of the power of this world, which exalts itself against the kingdom of God. In this way He not only showed to His congregation that it would not be all at once, but only after long-continued conflict, and at the end of the world, that the worldly power by which it was opposed would be overthrown, but also proved to the enemies of His kingdom, that however long their power might sustain itself in opposition to the kingdom of God, it would at last be destroyed in a moment.

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