James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.Joshua 6:1-8:35
JERICHO AND AI
DIVINE ORDERS (Joshua 6:1-5)
These verses should not be separated from the foregoing by a chapter division, since it is evident that the orders here received by Joshua were given by the Captain of the Lord’s host previously described. Observe another proof of His deity in the words, “I have given into thine hand Jericho.”
The mode by which Joshua was to proceed (Joshua 6:3-5) calls for no explanation. What had been his own preparations for the attack on the city? Was he meditating upon them when the “Captain of the Lord’s host” met him? Nevertheless he surrenders to the divine will, and implicitly obeys.
But it was not Joshua merely, but the whole nation which was to be taught great lessons about God in this transaction. And are not the same lessons applicable to us? Behold divine omnipotence, and the power of faith and obedience on our part in laying hold of it!
God could have destroyed the walls of Jericho in the twinkling of an eye, and without any such procedure on Israel’s part, but the circuits they were to make and the length of time involved had value in arresting attention and deepening the impression upon them and their enemy. What if the latter had repented as did Ninevah at a later time?
HUMAN OBEDIENCE (Joshua 6:8-16)
The record in these verses is the fulfillment in detail of the foregoing decree. “Passed on before the Lord” (Joshua 6:8) refers to the ark of the covenant, the symbol of His presence, which was carried in the procession.
It is supposed that, at least upon the seventh day, only the fighting men engaged in the march, it being almost inconceivable that two millions of people more or less, young and old, could have compassed the city seven times in one day.
But what a trial of faith this was! No battlement raised, no foundation undermined, no sword drawn, no spear pointed, no javelin hurled, no axe swung, no stroke given they must “walk and not faint,” that was all.
PROMISED RESULTS (Joshua 6:17-27)
The first three verses appear somewhat out of place in the record a command in the midst of a historic recital, but the subject to which they refer is familiar to those who have studied the previous lessons (see Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:17 and other places).
If we conceive of Joshua as pronouncing this curse we must remember it was done by divine command, while on the reasonableness of the curse itself, we should consider what was said in the introductory lesson. The sin of Jericho was aggravated by their closing their eyes to the miracle at the crossing of the Jordan. God might have swept them away by famine or pestilence, but mercy was mingled with judgment in employing the sword, for while it was directed against one place, time was afforded for others to repent.
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down” (Hebrews 11:30). Faith did not do the work of a battering ram, but it put Israel in an attitude toward God where He might work for them who required no outward agencies. It is the same kind of faith that saves the sinner and sanctifies and builds up the saint.
Rahab’s deliverance (Joshua 6:22-25) speaks for itself. She and all her kindred were left “without the camp,” doubtless for fear of its ceremonial defilement. The remark that “she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day” shows that the book must have been written within a reasonable date after the event.
The curse on the rebuilding of the city (Joshua 6:26) reads in the Revised Version: “Cursed be the man.., with the loss of his firstborn shall he lay the foundation, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates thereof.” For the fulfillment of this curse see 1 Kings 16:34.
SIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (Joshua 7)
The sin is named in verse 1 and the consequences to Israel in Joshua 7:2-5 in language which needs no commentary. The effect on Joshua is equally intelligible (Joshua 7:6-9), but one is not more impressed with his humiliation and alarm than his jealousy for the divine honor (Joshua 7:9, last clause).
The divine interpretation of the situation (Joshua 7:10-15) is of the deepest interest to every generation of God’s people. Israel had sinned, transgressed the covenant concerning Jericho, and dissembled besides by hiding the stolen articles. The whole nation had not done so, but the sin of a part was that of the whole (Jam 2:10).
The curse of Jericho now rested on Israel itself (Joshua 7:12), and could only be removed by the punishment of the offender who is soon discovered (Joshua 7:16-18), and confesses his crime (Joshua 7:19-21).
The retribution seems severe (Joshua 7:22-26), but not in light of the offense if we judge it as God did, and who is wise if he sets up another standard?
Observe that it is not said positively that Achan’s sons and daughters were stoned, although verse 22:20 witnesses that he did not perish alone. They may have been brought out only as witnesses to his punishment, but if it also fell on them then they must in some way have been partakers of his sin. (Read Deuteronomy 24:16.) “The valley of Achor” means “the valley of troubling.”
DEFEAT TURNED TO VICTORY (Joshua 8:1-29)
Why was Joshua to “take all the people of war” with him in this case, say six hundred thousand, when the whole population of Ai was only twelve thousand (v. 25)? Was it as a rebuke for their self-confidence before (Joshua 7:3)? Was it to inspire courage after the memory of their former repulse? Or was it that the division of the spoil now to be allowed (Joshua 8:2) might be shared amongst all as a reward for their former obedience and a stimulus to further exertions (Deuteronomy 6:10)?
The campaign outlined in Joshua 8:3-13 is common in modern warfare, but apparently unsuspected by the Aites. Observe that the people of Bethel were confederate with the Aites.
THE ALTAR ON MATTHEW EBAL (Joshua 8:30-35)
For the history of this altar compare Deuteronomy 27, a command the Israelites presumably could not obey until this victory, since Ebal was twenty miles beyond and through a hostile country.
1. What spiritual lessons are taught us in the fall of Jericho?
2. How was the sin of Jericho aggravated?
3. What expression shows an early origin of this book?
4. In whose reign was Jericho rebuilt?
5. Can you quote Jam 2:10?
6. What does Achor mean?
7. Name three possible reasons why all the men of war were to advance against Ai.
8. With what sacred event is this period of the campaign brought to an end?