The Capture of Jericho

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days. 

Hebrews 11:30

To the inhabitants of Canaan, the fact struck home with a cold grip of terror. They saw and heard and heard again of Israel's passage through the river Jordan. What could they do against power like that? Paralyzed with fright, they turned to their cities and locked the gates and waited. They dared not to stir. 

In contrast was the exultation which the children of Israel felt. Had any one had any hesitation about entering the land of Canaan, there was no longer any reason for it to remain. With a mighty demonstration of power they had crossed that great river on dry ground. Not one of the inhabitants of the land had come out to meet or challenge or threaten them. The fruitful fields and vineyards lay before them unprotected, ready to be taken, while the Canaanites huddled with terror in their cities. They looked upon the monument of twelve stones taken from the river's bed and marveled at the greatness of Jehovah who had performed this all. 

At last the time had come that the reproach of Egypt against Jehovah was removed. It was the Egyptians who first had suggested that Jehovah was leading Israel forth to destroy them in the wilderness, and repeatedly this accusation had been taken up and made anew by the unbelieving in Israel. So widespread had this wicked reproach finally become that Israel had been turned back to spend yet forty years in the wilderness as punishment for its sin. During those years of judgment even the sacraments of the Old Testament covenant, circumcision and the Passover, were withheld from the children of Israel. But now God had returned in grace to His people, and the promise of entering the inheritance of Abraham had been fulfilled before their very eyes. All Israel could only confess that the promises of Jehovah had been faithful and true. The reproach of Egypt had been removed. 

To mark the full return of Jehovah's covenant love, the command was given that the Old Testament sacraments should be restored. First all of the male members of the nation born during the wilderness wandering were circumcised. This included all who were below forty years of age. It was the strongest testimony Israel could receive that Jehovah was keeping the covenant of Abraham their father with them. No sooner was this accomplished than the time was there for the keeping of the Passover. Most of the children had never taken part in this great ceremony. They only knew of it from the descriptions that the older people and teachers gave. But the feast took on rich meaning for them just having entered Canaan and remembering the events of that night when the deliverance from bondage had begun. Under the sign of the lamb's blood they had been brought into the promised land of true rest. 

The next morning when Israel awoke, they were reminded of how completely the history of their deliverance was accomplished. For the first morning in many, many years no manna was found lying on the ground. Henceforth they would eat only the grain and fruit of this promised land. 

But upon Joshua there still remained the duty of carrying on. Israel had been brought into Canaan, but they still had to spread out to fill the land. The Canaanites were still there waiting within the fortifications of their many strong cities. They would have to be rooted and destroyed. Contemplating the difficulties that lay before them, Joshua made his way alone to examine from a distance the walls of Jericho. This city was known to be the biggest and strongest city in all the land. Here would be the first and greatest test of Israel's power over against the fortified strength of Canaan. Into a city so strongly sealed up, how could they ever penetrate? 

Suddenly, as Joshua walked alone, there appeared before him a man whom he did not know with a drawn sword in his hand. Always the ready soldier, Joshua extended to him the military challenge, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?"

The answer which came back was more than Joshua could ever have expected, "Nay; but the captain of the host of the LORD am I now come." 

Joshua, the man of many battles, was not one to flinch before the enemy; but before this announcement he fell in complete submission upon his face. In fear and meekness he asked, 'What saith my lord unto his servant?" 

Neither was the meekness of Joshua misplaced. The answering command only reaffirmed its propriety, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Quickly with reverence Joshua obeyed. This was undoubtedly the angel of Jehovah God. 

As Joshua bowed worshipfully before his God, the most astounding battle plans were issued to him. Jehovah said to Joshua, "See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 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. 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." 

They were strange orders which Joshua issued when he returned to the camp of Israel. Everyone realized full well that before they could proceed any farther they would have to break down the great and strong fortifications of Jericho. For that the orders which Joshua gave could only have appeared to be so much waste of time. In fact, had this generation been as hard hearted and rebellious as their fathers had been, they might well have refused to follow such foolish instructions. But they had had many years to contemplate the unfaithfulness of their fathers, and they had themselves in recent days experienced other works of Jehovah's power and grace which the human mind could not fathom. Exactly as Joshua commanded, they prepared themselves for a great religious procession. It was evidently a procession in which the Ark of the Covenant would be placed in the position of honor. Before and behind the ark would march the warriors of Israel, while immediately preceding it were to go seven priests of Israel with large trumpets in their hands. The importance of the procession was to center in the presence of Jehovah in the midst of Israel, symbolized by His ark. The trumpets as always were there also to announce the approach of Jehovah God. 

One can well imagine the tension which filled the city of Jericho on the day when first this great and mighty procession approached the walls of their city. Had it been any other army, they might have considered it more lightly. After all, the walls of their city were known to be quite impenetrable. But somehow this did not afford its usual comfort. They had heard and seen too much of the God of Israel to have much feeling of security left. They watched the marching of Israel's army fearful lest at any moment some new and miraculous power should suddenly consume them. First it was the blast of the seven trumpets that struck fear into their hearts; and then there was the solemn, silent march of the men of Israel that was so disconcerting; everything was so strange and mysterious, far beyond anything they had ever experienced. All the while that vast army circled their walls the people were troubled, and only after it returned back to Israel's camp did anyone have any sort of a feeling of relief. 

But then again the next day it began all over again. Once again the inhabitants watched. Again their hearts shuddered at the sound of those trumpets, and they felt uneasy before the silent and mysterious march of the people. But this time it was not so new, and they were able to relax more quickly. 

When on the third and fourth day the same thing was repeated, the people of Jericho could almost begin to act somewhat indifferent. Although they still had an underlying feeling of uneasiness, they were able to hide it quite well. By the fifth and sixth day, the whole thing began to look somewhat humorous. They found themselves able to reinterpret the whole thing as a frustration on the part of Israel and its army. The people were circling around and around because they did not know what else to do. The blasting of the trumpets was only some futile attempt to call down some enchantment upon the city. Once again smiles were seen and laughter was heard, mocking insults were hurled down upon the procession of Israel. Jericho began to feel quite confident that their walls contained the answer to the power of Israel's God. 

It was on the seventh day when all was brought to its climax. The people of Jericho awoke that morning to the sound of Israel's trumpets, for already before the dawn the procession of Israel's people had begun to march. Around the city they went; but this time they did not return to their camp; they continued to go around the city again. Again and again the procession proceeded around. To the people on the walls the whole thing began to seem almost comical. Taunts of derision were hurled down upon the children of Israel and curses against their God; but never a word answered back. To the children of Israel their movement was as a solemn act of worship and in reverent silence they continued on their way. The wickedness of their enemies would not distract them. 

It was then on the seventh day when late in the day the seventh encirclement of the city had taken place, that suddenly the feet of Israel ceased in their marching. As the Canaanites watched in astonishment, the priests lifted their trumpets to their lips, giving forth with a mighty, resounding blast. It was only then that the lips of Israel, so long silent, opened and broke forth with a great shout. And the mighty walls of Jericho, so long impenetrable, began to waver, to crumble, to topple amid screams of anguish and clouds of dust. With a leap and a shout of victory the army of Israel arose and scrambled into the midst of the city. There was none to fight; there was none to resist; the victory was the Lord's; the strength of the land of Canaan had been crushed by the miracle of His power. 

When finally the clouds of dust had blown away and one could look about to examine the ruins, there was one thing that immediately attracted attention. There was one small part of the wall still standing. On it was built a house, and from it there dangled a heavy cord of scarlet. Had any looked to that window during the encircling march of Israel, they had surely seen a face covered with hope and confidence instead of the fear and derision upon all the others. This was the home of Rahab. In accord with the promise of the spies, it had been preserved, together with those who were in it. By faith Rahab had been preserved from the destruction that had fallen upon her own city. 

—B.W.

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