Joshua 6
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
- The Red Sea; a land where there was no water; want of food; terrors of the spies; the warlike people of Bashan; Jordan impossible; a Jericho impregnable. Such are the successive strains made on the faith and resolution of Israel. God's people go from st
The taking of Jericho is the first great victory of the Israelites over the Canaanites. It is a type of the victory of the people of God over their adversaries. We learn from it the secret and the method of success in this conflict.

I. The first thing demanded of the people of Israel is A GREAT ACT OF FAITH. It was no slight exercise of faith to believe that the sounding of the sacred trumpets would suffice to overthrow those massive walls which rose like impregnable ramparts around the city. It was necessary that the besiegers should rise above all the merely material aspects of the situation, and endure, as said the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "as seeing him who is invisible," and relying wholly on His word (Hebrews 11:27).

II. This faith is not a mere feeling of trust; IT INVOLVES ALSO A POSITIVE AND PERILOUS DEED. The Israelites are not to wait in inaction the working of a miracle on their behalf; they have a direct command to obey. The ark is to be triumphantly borne, sometimes to the stirring sound of trumpets, around the walls of Jericho, from the top of which the enemy might take deadly aim at the besiegers. Thus, for Israel to believe is to obey; it is to act in spite of danger. This is the faith of which it is said that it "overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4).

III. THIS FAITH FINDS A RESPONSE IN THE MIGHTY GRACE OF GOD. That grace delights in sovereign manifestations. In the exercise of His absolute freedom, God has often chosen "things that are not to bring to nought things that are," (1 Corinthians 1:28), thus magnifying His grace by the very disproportion between the results and the apparent means used to effect them. What power is there in the sound of a trumpet to shake the solid foundation of a city wall? Can its shrillest blast make the massive granite tremble to its fall? God will show that the power is His alone; that Israel's confidence must be in no arm of flesh, but in Him only. Undoubtedly He does often make use of those natural means which are of His own appointment, and His grace is not in the ordinary course of things opposed to nature. Religious life is not magic, but those grand manifestations of Divine sovereignty which are called miracles bring us into immediate contact with the sovereign power of God from which all blessed influences flow. Let us not forget, moreover, that there is a distinction to be observed between what may be called the creative period of the religion of redemption, and its subsequent stage of preservation and development. The current of the new life must first hollow out its channel, before it can pursue its even way between the banks of a defined course. Hence with regard to miracles, there is a great difference between the age which saw the first beginnings of Christianity, and our own day, which is an era of development only.

IV. The fall of the walls of Jericho before the blast of the sacred trumpets is an apt symbol of THE TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT OVER MATERIAL FORCE. The sacred trumpets accompanied the songs of Israel, its hymns of worship raised to the true God. It was this glorious truth of the one living and true God which finally subdued the Canaanitish nations. Mens agitat molem. Mind moves matter; it always triumphs over material obstacles. Force can avail nothing against it, because it is itself the power of God. Primitive Christianity saw the citadel of paganism fall before it. All-powerful Rome fell prostrate when the gospel trumpet sent forth its sonorous voice into the midst of a down trodden and decaying world. Thus, also, in a later age did the fortress of Romish superstition crumble into ruin before Luther's hymn, which embodies the whole spirit of the Reformation. The hymn on justification by faith was like Israel's trumpets to the Papal Jericho. "Believe only, and thou shalt see the glory of God" (John 11:20). - E. DE P.

When the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been compassed about seven days" (Hebrews 11:30), he sets his seal to the supernatural character of this event. Not by any kind of natural force - undermining, storming, or even earthquake - but by the faith that lays hold on the unseen power of God, was the effect produced. It was a link in the chain of marvellous Divine manifestations by which those times were signalised. The miraculous element is inseparably interwoven with the fabric of the history. It can be denied here only by those who are prepared to relegate the whole to the region of fable and romance. The fall of this fortified city of Jericho had a peculiar meaning, and stood in important relation to the events that followed. As the strongest fortress of Canaan, its conquest was the key to the possession of the whole land. As pre-eminent, probably, in its wickedness, its doom was a prophecy of the unmitigated judgments of God on the abominations of Phoenician idolatry. The solemn procession of the ark, time after time, around the city was a significant declaration of its sovereignty over it and all that it contained; and when at last it fell, it was as the first fruits of the harvest field, "accursed" - devoted - to show that the whole land was His. Thus were the Israelites taught that an inheritance which they had not won for themselves by their own skill and strength, but which had been given to them by the Lord (vers. 2, 16), must be held in unreserved allegiance to Him (Psalm 44:3). We see in this event a typical representation of the Divine conquest of the powers of error and evil in the world. It prefigures the assault of the kingdom of light upon the kingdom of darkness, and sets forth, as in acted parable, the apostolic truth, "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Corinthians 10:4).

I. IN JERICHO ITSELF WE SEE A TYPE OF THE STRONGHOLDS OF INIQUITY IN THE WORLD. - The city was "straitly shut up; none went out and none came in" (ver. 1). The combination of the passive and active forms here indicates how the natural strength of the fortifications was supplemented by the resistive spirit of the people. We are reminded of those conditions of the human soul in which it is impenetrable by the influence of Divine truth; resolute in its unbelief, impenitence, corrupt affection, evil habit; closely shut against the powers that would bring into it a new and nobler life. But the picture of the closed city suggests not so much the resistance of the individual soul to redeeming influence, as that of the conspicuous forms of evil existing in the world - false systems of thought, corrupt institutions, pernicious social usages; strongholds of infidelity, vice, tyranny, superstition, idolatry. We are reminded how deeply rooted they are, how strong in the radical tendencies of human nature and in the traditionary custom of ages. Like Jericho, the very hot bed of Canaanite pollution, in the midst of its glorious palm groves, so do these forms of evil stand as blots on the fair creation of God, and cast their deadly shadow on the otherwise glad life of man. It is against these that the kingdom of truth and righteousness wages an exterminating war, "casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."

II. THE MODE OF THE CITY'S FALL IS SUGGESTIVE OF THE RELATION EXISTING BETWEEN THE HUMAN INSTRUMENT AND THE DIVINE POWER IN THIS SPIRITUAL CONFLICT. Note the apparent impotence of the means used in view of the end to be answered. This silent procession of the ark and the armed host round and round the walls, the silence broken only by the rude music of the priests' rams' horns - what a solemn farce it must have seemed! We can imagine with what derision it was greeted by the men of the city. If that is all the power that can be brought against them, they have little need for fear. The spiritual analogy is plain. To men destitute of faith, incapable of discovering the resistless force that lies behind them, the instruments of the kingdom of Christ seem very feeble. The workers of iniquity, within their refuges of lies, bold in the strength of "blood and custom," laugh at weapons such as these. "The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:18). But outward appearances are a very false rule of judgment. The sovereign power can work through meanest, simplest instruments. Their efficacy is often in inverse ratio to their apparent feebleness. "We have the treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7). "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise," etc. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).

III. THE DELAY OF THE ISSUE AFFORDS A LESSON IN THE PATIENCE THAT WAITS ON GOD IN THE PATH OF OBEDIENCE AND SERVICE. The seven days' process, in addition to its symbolic meaning, was a trial of the faith and constancy of the people. "By faith the walls fell down," because it was confidence in the unseen Power that kept both priests and warriors steadfast in their seemingly meaningless and profitless round till the appointed time. All great issues in the onward progress of the kingdom of Christ - the fall of corrupt institutions, the doom of reigning iniquities - have their appointed time. This applies pre-eminently to the grand final issue: "Of that day and hour knoweth no man." But in the fulness of the time the glorious vision shall appear. The slowness of the process of destruction and restitution is strange to us. We cry, in our moments of impatience ?

"Oh, why these years of waiting here,
These ages of delay?"

But "he that believeth shall not make haste." He knows how to wait, "For the vision is yet for an appointed time," etc. (Habakkuk 2:3, 4). Faith, on its watchtower, sees the grand procession of events moving on to the end of the days, when "the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God," to lay the last stronghold of Satan in ruins, and "create the new heavens and the new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness" (1 Thessalonians 4:16; 2 Peter 3:13). - W.

The wall fell down fiat. A strong city besieged; yet no trenches opened, no batteries erected against it, no engines of assault employed. Armed men in two divisions, separated by the ark and priests who precede it, compass the city once a day in silence, save for the sound of the horns blown by the seven priests. After six days the marching commences early in the morning, and the circuit is completed seven times, when the priests blow a long peculiar blast, the whole host upraises a loud cry, and behold the wall of Jericho, with its lofty battlements, totters and falls. The joyful soldiers, in perfect order, rush triumphantly into the city, and put to the sword the dismayed inhabitants. Many days have these inhabitants wondered at the strange method in which they are besieged. Fearing the Israelites, they have remained behind the shelter of their fortifications, and waited to receive their foes' attack, and lo! in a moment they are laid bare to a merciless onslaught. History is instructive; it contains lessons for all ages. Let us try and lead some lessons written clearly on the prostrate walls of Jericho.

I. We are reminded of THE INSECURE DEFENCES ON WHICH MANY RELY. All men arc not unmindful of the ills of life to which they are exposed; many distinctly recognise the fact that the castle in which they dwell is, or soon may be, surrounded by foes. But against these they have made preparation, and are confident of their ability to resist the most impetuous attack. A store of wealth has been accumulated to guard against poverty; and to be the centre of a group of friends will surely prove an adequate security against the invasion of loneliness or melancholy. Alas! how unstable are the foundations on which rest the hopes of men. Successive losses reduce the millionaire to beggary; and removals and deaths strip the gayest man of the company in which he delighted.

"After summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful, nipping cold." Lest a good man should be forgotten, we erect a tablet "in lasting memory," and ere a year has elapsed a fire consumes it to ashes.

II. THE SUDDENNESS WITH WHICH TRUSTED DEFENCES ARE CAST DOWN. Often there is little warning prior to the catastrophe, scarcely the rumbling that precedes an earthquake. Feasting amid splendour, the handwriting is seen on the wall, while the enemy is entering the city by the dry bed of the river. The head of a family labouring to provide for its wants is stricken down by disease or accident, and the strong arm which kept the foe at bay is suddenly powerless.

III. THE REASON OF THE DESTRUCTION IS SOMETIMES TO BE FOUND IN THE FACT THAT MEN WERE FIGHTING AGAINST GOD. Hitherto we have considered the general lot without distinction of persons. All are subject to a reverse of fortune; "There is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." Yet the author of this last clause remarks, "Surely I know it shall be well with them that fear God; but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he feareth not God." The downfall of the seemingly impregnable fortifications of Jericho was due to the might of Jehovah fighting on behalf of His people. It was a strife between true religion and idolatry. And today, whilst "all things work together for good to them that love God," the troubles which beset the ungodly may be intended as correctives or judgments. We cannot be oblivious of modern instances where the thunderbolt of Divine wrath has fallen on guilty nations and individuals. The hand of the Almighty can be as truly traced as in the sudden overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. His day comes upon men "like a thief in the night," and just when the wall of defence is most needed does it full, leaving the inhabitant a prey to terrible assault. If the vessel's unseaworthiness were discovered in the harbour, what mattered it? but to find it out on the tempestuous ocean, this is misery indeed. Call to mind Voltaire's wretched lament upon his deathbed, that popular applause could then do naught to help him: "I have swallowed nothing but smoke; I have intoxicated myself with the incense that turned my head." Happy may we count ourselves when God exerts His power, and shows us the penetrable character of our security, while yet there is time to seek a remedy. Did not Paul rejoice that the bright light from heaven revealed the darkness in which he had been travelling, and that the "knowledge of Christ" completely overcame his old self-righteous ideas? His boasted privileges and conformity to law yielded at the first breath of the words of Christ, and Christianity, defied so arrogantly, reigned within his breast. Perhaps, O Christian, thou wast rating too highly some of the pleasures of earth, refined though they were, and in mercy thou hast been at a stroke deprived of them

IV. THE IRRETRIEVABLE DESTRUCTION which God effects. The walls of Jericho were not rebuilt, at least by the inhabitants; and on the man who in after years presumptuously endeavoured to act in defiance of the threat of Joshua was seen a terrible fulfilment of prophecy. The temple of Jerusalem is another example of lasting ruin. But in the spiritual realm it is no matter for regret that a curse rests upon the reconstruction of a wicked security. The obstacle to the admission of the Saviour into the heart once surmounted should never again be built up. The hold of the world once loosened should never be allowed to environ us again. Never can the hour in which the utter defencelessness of the soul was realised be blotted out of the book of memory; and all the after lessons which stern experience has taught us are indelibly imprinted upon the mind. The uprooting of our affections caused by the loss of a loved one; the failure of friendship in the time of exigency; the sickness that dismissed the shows of life and confronted us with the realities of eternity: these events have burnt themselves into our very being, and are become part of ourselves. To bring the matter to a practical issue, ask, Where do we place our trust? Is it not wisdom to choose as our refuge the unchanging God; not to trust any arm of flesh, but to rest in the mercy and love of the Eternal? Not to structures which human skill erects, but to the everlasting hills will we look for aid. "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." - A.

If any city ever was such a "City of Destruction" as Bunyan fancied, it was Jericho. Itself and all within it were devoted to destruction, only Rahab, like another Noah, with her family escaping. It is an awful fact to contemplate the destruction of a whole city. No escape, and little warning! Old and young, one day in possession of wealth, ease, comfort, and the next day captured and destroyed. The judicial principles on which God acts and on which He here commands the destruction of Jericho, are beyond us, but some of the lessons are clear and useful. Study these:

I. THERE IS A PENALTY FOR SIN. There is nothing wanton in God's ways. Israel was God's chosen, and the nations of Canaan His rejected, because morally the former, with all its faults, infinitely surpassed the latter. You get glimpses of the evil of the primitive races with their religious in the story of Baal-Peor; in the vice and atrocity which perpetually mark every relapse of Israel into idolatry; in the nameless defilements of modern heathenism. Dr. Arnold, no narrow theologian, defends the destruction of the Canaanites as a great gain to the welfare of humanity. It is these cruelties and abominations of heathenism which required and explain the destruction of the Canaanites. For God punishes sin. There is no truth more undeniable, and none the knowledge of which is more widely spread. We suffer for every fault we commit. As root and fruit, so wrong and wretchedness, go together. However subtle the fault, God's providence operates in penalties still more subtle. The eating of any forbidden fruit always has its two penalties - loss of power, and loss of some sort of Eden. Sins of sinners have their penalties. And God's people receive "double for all their sins" - a heavier stroke for the less excusable transgression. It is not because God is wrathful that He punishes, but because He is gracious. God is love, and therefore will not let us harm ourselves or others. His infinite love impels Him to "stamp out" evil by penalty. It is blasphemy to think God can sit still and see, with indifferent eye, the poison of sin working its mischief in the world. For love is neither in God nor man a merely sentimental thing. It is wise, it is strong, it is stern. "Love is inexorable," says one of our greatest teachers (George Macdonald). So God's love makes Him "a consuming fire." He pardons sin, when His grace working penitence has got it out of us, but punishes it until we deplore and loathe it. The creed of Jericho was probably a very free and easy one. But as God's facts do not accommodate themselves to our creeds, it is better to adjust our creed to God's facts. Your sins will not pass unpunished. Blessed be God's name, He loves us too well for that. There will be an element of correction in all penalty, until correction becomes impossible; and then, in mercy at once to ourselves and others, God steps in to prevent the further accumulation of guilt by us, and the further infliction of mischief on others. The city of sin is a city of destruction, and your sin will receive the penalty due to it, however secure you may feel in yore' power to evade it.

II. PENALTY IS OFTEN LONG DEFERRED, AND IS THEN SUDDENLY INFLICTED. Jericho had, I suppose, stood long. The destruction of the cities of the plain had not extended to it. It is possible that, alike from the calamities of war as well as those of nature it had been free. And its prosperity and wealth, its abounding trade with East and West, suggested that there was really no reason to be afraid of God's judgments. Yet suddenly, like a thunderbolt out of a clear sky, destruction fell on them. There is often delay in inflicting a punishment. God prolongs opportunity. "This year also" He spares the barren fig tree, reluctant to destroy what might produce fruit. He is not willing that any should perish, lie is "slow to anger." His long suffering is salvation. He lengthens "the days of tranquillity" that we may at last repent. But when all delay is abused, and the postponement of doom only awakes presumption, at last the stroke comes," suddenly and without remedy." The flood came suddenly, and so did the destruction of Sodom, so did that of Jezebel and Nabal, and Belshazzar, and Herod, and Judas, and that of multitudes that cannot be numbered. Do not mistake postponement of penalty for pardon of sin. Of all our unrepented sin that has not yet been smitten, the punishment is only suspended. We cannot dig so deep but God will find us, nor strengthen our defence so stoutly as to defy His power. Be wise and use the days of reprieve for repentance. "Seek the Lord while he may be found," as we are here taught there is a penalty for every sin, and that, long suspended, it yet at last falls suddenly. So observe also lastly -

III. THEY WHO WOULD AVOID DESTRUCTION MUST BECOME FOLLOWERS OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL. Only one woman with her relatives seems to have done this. We do not read of any persons fleeing from the city of doom, or making any provision for capitulation or escape. The enervation of luxury and immorality is on them. They alternately sink in despair or are puffed up in the confidence of their walls. But one person, rising in repentance from the guilt of a long neglect, sees the glory of God and chooses Him as her hope and Master. When she cannot save the city with her, she saves herself, and, expecting the wonderful works of God, enlists in His service. Repent thou, and take Jesus Christ as thy Lord, ending with serious change of thought and action all the evil of your life. And then the infinite love which weeps when it can only smite will pardon the sin that you forsake, and give you "a place amongst the children," and the great salvation which you long to enjoy. - G.

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