Joshua 6:4
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.
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(4) Seven trumpets of rams’ horns.—Literally, trumpets of jubilee—i.e., of loud or joyful sound.

6:1-5 Jericho resolves Israel shall not be its master. It shut itself up, being strongly fortified both by art and nature. Thus were they foolish, and their hearts hardened to their destruction; the miserable case of all that strengthen themselves against the Almighty. God resolves Israel shall be its master, and that quickly. No warlike preparations were to be made. By the uncommon method of besieging the city, the Lord honoured the ark, as the symbol of his presence, and showed that all the victories were from him. The faith and patience of the people were proved and increased.Trumpets of ram's horns - Render rather here and in Joshua 6:5-6, Joshua 6:8, etc., "trumpets of jubilee" (compare Leviticus 25:10 note). The instrument is more correctly rendered "cornet" (see Leviticus 25:9, note). Various attempts have been made to explain the fall of Jericho by natural causes, as, e. g., by the undermining of the walls, or by an earthquake, or by a sudden assault. But the narrative of this chapter does not afford the slightest warrant for any such explanations; indeed it is totally inconsistent with them. It must be taken as it stands; and so taken it intends, beyond all doubt, to narrate a miracle, or rather a series of miracles.

In the belief that a record is not necessarily unhistorical because it is miraculous, never perhaps was a miracle more needed than that which gave Jericho to Joshua. Its lofty walls and well-fenced gates made it simply impregnable to the Israelites - a nomad people, reared in the desert, destitute alike of the engines of war for assaulting a fortified town, and of skill and experience in the use of them if they had had them. Nothing line a direct interference of the Almighty could in a week's time give a city like Jericho, thoroughly on its guard and prepared (compare Joshua 2:9 ff and Joshua 6:1), to besiegers situated as were Joshua and the Israelites.

The fall of Jericho cogently taught the inhabitants of Canaan that the successes of Israel were not mere human triumphs of man against man, and that the God of Israel was not as "the gods of the countries." This lesson some of them at least learned to their salvation, e. g., Rahab and the Gibeonites. Further, ensuing close upon the miraculous passage of Jordan, it was impressed on the people, prone ever to be led by the senses, that the same God who had delivered their fathers out of Egypt and led them through the Red Sea, was with Joshua no less effectually than He had been with Moses.

And the details of the orders given by God to Joshua Jos 6:3-5 illustrate this last point further. The trumpets employed were not the silver trumpets used for signalling the marshalling of the host and for other warlike purposes (compare Numbers 10:2), but the curved horns employed for ushering in the Jubilee and the Sabbatical Year (Septuagint, σάλπιγγες ἱεραί salpinges hierai: compare the Leviticus 23:24 note). The trumpets were borne by priests, and were seven in number; the processions round Jericho were to be made on seven days, and seven times on the seventh day, thus laying a stress on the sacred number seven, which was an emhlem more especially of the work of God. The ark of God also, the seat of His special presence, was carried round the city. All these particulars were calculated to set forth symbolically, and in a mode sure to arrest the attention of the people, the fact that their triumph was wholly due to the might of the Lord, and to that covenant which made their cause His.

3-5. ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war. … Thus shalt thou do six days, &c.—Directions are here given as to the mode of procedure. Hebrew, "horns of jubilee"; that is, the bent or crooked trumpets with which the jubilee was proclaimed. It is probable that the horns of this animal were used at first; and that afterwards, when metallic trumpets were introduced, the primitive name, as well as form of them, was traditionally continued. The design of this whole proceeding was obviously to impress the Canaanites with a sense of the divine omnipotence, to teach the Israelites a memorable lesson of faith and confidence in God's promises, and to inspire sentiments of respect and reverence for the ark as the symbol of His presence. The length of time during which those circuits were made tended the more intensely to arrest the attention, and to deepen the impressions, both of the Israelites and the enemy. The number seven was among the Israelites the symbolic seal of the covenant between God and their nation [Keil, Hengstenberg]. Of rams’ horns, or, of the jubilees, i.e. such trumpets wherewith they were to sound in the years of jubilee, Leviticus 25:9. Either this, or one of the other six, was certainly a sabbath day; and it is not material which was it, for the command of the Lord of the sabbath was sufficient to legitimate any action.

And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns,.... The ark was to be taken up and carried by priests round the city. Ben Gersom observes, that this was to direct the Israelites to keep and do according to all that was written in it; that is, in the law, which was contained in it; but no doubt the design of it was to show, that the subduing of Jericho, and the miracle that would be wrought, were owing to the power and presence of God, of which the ark was a symbol: and before it were to go seven other priests, with trumpets in their hands; which, according to our version, were made of rams horns: in the original it is "jobelim", or "jubilee" trumpets. Some think it means only such as they were to use in the year of jubilee; so Abarbinel and others, as Masius and Noldius (x); that they had their name from Jubal, the first inventor of musical instruments, Genesis 4:21; for rams' horns are objected to because they are solid, and not hollow; as if they could not be bored and made hollow, and fit for such a purpose. The Targum, Jarchi, and Kimchi, interpret the word by rams horns, as we do (y); and observe what R. Akiba said,"when (says he) I went into Arabia, I heard them call; a ram "jobel"; and the trumpet itself is called "jobel", because made of a ram's horn (z):"

and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times; in the same manner as on the other days:

and the priests shall blow with the trumpets; which they were to do; and did every day.

(x) P. 160. No. 1515. (y) So Joseph. Antiqu. l. 5. c. 6. sect. 5. (z) Kimchi, Sepher. Shorash. rad. R. Sol. Urbim. Ohel Moed, fol. 39. 2.

And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of {e} rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.

(e) That the conquest might not be assigned to man's power, but to the mercy of God, which with most weak things can overcome that which seems most strong.

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.”

Verse 4. - And seven priests shall bear before the ark. The Vulgate puts "on the seventh day" in connection with this part of the sentence; Luther also translates thus. The LXX., which Calvin and our translators and the majority of commentators follow, regard this part of the sentence as stating what was to be done on the six days, and rightly so, as vers. 8-14 clearly show. That the historian, as has been before remarked, did not always give the full instructions Joshua received is evident from this passage. The priests are not said to have been instructed to sound the trumpet on the six days; yet we learn from Joshua 5:13 that they did so. It is rather implied than expressed that the ark was also to be borne in procession; but that this was (lone is evident from ver. 8. Seven trumpets of rams' horns. There is no mention of rams' horns in the original, which is שׁופְרות trumpets of jubilee, i.e., of triumph (hardly as Gesenius, "alarm trumpets," though not necessarily, with Dr. Vaughan in his 'Heroes of Faith,' "the emblems of festival, not of warfare"). The word הַיּובְלִים is derived from the same root as the Latin is in the phrase Io Triumphe (cf. Greek ἰώ), and according to Gesenius our word "yule" is also derived from this root. The שׁופַר as the next verse shows, was a curved instrument, in shape like a ram's horn, though not necessarily of that material; whereas the חַלֺצצְרָה was a straight trumpet. Seven times. The importance of the number seven as indicative of completeness is here strongly indicated. Seven priests were to carry seven trumpets for seven days. The word for to swear, נְִשבַּע literally to be sevened, means to have one's vow consecrated and confirmed by seven sacrifices or seven witnesses (see Genesis 21:28, 30). The number seven, says Bahr in his 'Symbolik des Alten Testament,' 1, 187, 188, is the sign of the relation, union, communion between God and the world, as represented by the number three and four respectively, just as twelve is in another relation (see note on Joshua 21:3). Its meaning, according to Bahr, among the heathen is somewhat different. There it means the harmony of the universe, and is signified by the seven stars, to which, and neither more nor less, was the power of influencing man's destiny ascribed. And the priests shall blow with the trumpets. "Fac tibi tribas ductiles, si sacerdos es, immo, quia sacerdos es (gens enim regalis effectus es et sacerdotium sanctum, de te enim scripture est), fac tibi tribas ductiles ex Scripturis sanctis" (Orig., Hom. 7 on Joshua). Joshua 6:4"And the Lord said to Joshua:" this is the sequel to Joshua 5:15, as Joshua 6:1 is merely a parenthesis and Jehovah is the prince of the army of Jehovah (Joshua 5:14), or the angel of Jehovah, who is frequently identified with Jehovah (see Pentateuch, pp. 106ff.). "See, I have given into thy hand Jericho and its king, and the mighty men of valour." ("Have given," referring to the purpose of God, which was already resolved upon, though the fulfilment was still in the future.) "The mighty men of valour" (brave warriors) is in apposition to Jericho, regarded as a community, and its king. In Joshua 6:3-5 there follows an explanation of the way in which the Lord would give Jericho into the hand of Joshua. All the Israelitish men of war were to go round the town once a day for six days. אחת פּעם ... הקּיף, "going round about the city once," serves as a fuller explanation of סבּותם ("ye shall compass"). As they marched in this manner round the city, seven priests were to carry seven jubilee trumpets before the ark, which implies that the ark itself was to be carried round the city in solemn procession. But on the seventh day they were to march round the town seven times, and the priests to blow the trumpets; and when there was a blast with the jubilee horn, and the people on hearing the sound of the trumpet raised a great cry, the wall of the town should fall down "under itself." The "jubilee trumpets" (Eng. Ver. "trumpets of rams' horns") are the same as the "jubilee horn" (Eng. Ver. "rams' horn") in Joshua 6:5, for which the abbreviated form shophar (trumpet, Joshua 6:5; cf. Exodus 19:16) or jobel (jubilee: Exodus 19:13) is used. They were not the silver trumpets of the priests (Numbers 10:1.), but large horns, or instruments in the shape of a horn, which gave a loud far-sounding tone (see at Leviticus 23:24; Leviticus 25:11). For בש תּקע, blow the trumpet (lit. strike the trumpet), in Joshua 6:4, בּקּרן משׁך, draw with the horn, i.e., blow the horn with long-drawn notes, is used in Joshua 6:5 (see at Exodus 19:13). The people were then to go up, i.e., press into the town over the fallen wall; "every one straight before him," i.e., every one was to go straight into the town without looking round at his neighbour either on the right hand or on the left (vid., Joshua 6:20).
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