Chapter 6


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The Fall of Jericho

    • Jericho had been tightly shut up both inside and out because of the Israelites. No one was allowed to enter or exit. The Lord gave the following instructions to Joshua: “I have handed Jericho over to you along with its king and its warriors. You and your fighting men are to march around the city once a day for six days. Seven priests are to walk in front of the ark, each carrying a ram’s horn trumpet. On the seventh day, you are to march around the city seven times while the priests blow the trumpets. When you hear the priests give one prolonged blast of the trumpets, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then, the wall of the city will collapse and the people will charge, each one straight ahead.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Jericho guarded two important entrances into the heart of the hill country. If the Israelites did not conquer the city first, they would have a well-armed enemy at their back, standing between the Israelite forces and their families encamped at Gilgal. They had to conquer Jericho first.”

      • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible agrees, “The historicity of the conquest of Jericho (and Ai) is discernable due to the fact that these sites were important strategic points in conquering the Promised Land from the east…”

      • Guzik writes, “The method of warfare was one that made absolutely no sense according to military intelligence. It required total dependence on God… It required great faith from Joshua because he had to explain and lead the nation in this plan…It required great faith from the elders and the nation, because they had to follow Joshua in this plan…It was a plan for victory whereby it would clearly be the work of the LORD. Yet God gave them something to do, so that Israel could work in partnership with God…Obviously, it was something that God could have done without Israel’s help at all, but He wanted them to be a part of His work – as He wants us to be a part of His work today.”

      • It should also be noted that a common allegation from skeptics is that there is no evidence for Joshua’s conquest. This claim is very difficult to counter since, according to archaeologist Dr. Bryant Wood, no written records from the conquest period (1406-1400 BC) have been discovered to provide independent witness. However, in his article for Associates for Biblical Research titled “Biblical Evidence for the Conquest,” Dr. Wood does point to the existence of indirect evidence. One example is provided below:

        • Wood points out a 6th century writing of Procopius of Caesarea (a Greek historian) explaining how the Phoenecians ended up in North Africa: “They [the Canaanites] also built a fortress in Numidia, where now is the city called Tigisis [probably in Algeria]. In that place are two columns made of white stone near by the great spring, having Phoenician letters cut in them which say in the Phoenician tongue: ‘We are they who fled from before the face of Joshua, the robber, the son of Nun.’” These columns are referenced by other Greek historians as well. Wood writes, “It is highly unlikely that the Phoenicians of North Africa would have invented such a demeaning tradition to explain how they came to be in North Africa.”

      • What about archaeological evidence for the conquest of Jericho in particular?

        • Dr. David Wood explains in his article, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence”, that archaeologists have historically held that Jericho could not have been destroyed by the Israelites based primarily on archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon’s assessment of a lack of expensive, imported pottery from Cyprus found at the site which caused her to date the destruction around 1550 BC- too early for the conquest recorded in the Bible.

        • However, Dr. Wood refutes Kenyon’s dating due to the fact that a considerable amount of Cypriot pottery was found by an archaeologist who preceded Kenyon (Garstang) before its significance in dating was known. Kenyon didn’t discover any because she was excavating in only two 26 foot squares. This, along with other evidence Wood interprets from the findings of both Kenyon and Garstand, lead Wood to date the destruction of Jericho at around 1400 BC, which does fit the Biblical narrative.

        • Wood also notes 7 points of corroboration between the archaeological evidence at Jericho and the Biblical narrative: 1) the city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5,7,15,6:5,20); 2) the attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:6, 3:15, 5:10); 3) the inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodstuffs (Joshua 6:1); 4) the siege was short (Joshua 6:15); 5) the walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20); 6) the city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17-18); 7) the city was burned (Joshua 6:20).

“Tell es-Sultan, ancient Jericho. Scarred with the trenches of past digs, the impressive mound stretches from top to bottom in this overhead view.” Image via
    • Joshua called the priests together and told them to take up the ark of the covenant and select seven priests to walk in front of it, each carrying a ram’s horn trumpet. Then Joshua instructed the people to march around the city, letting the armed men go ahead of the ark of the Lord. After Joshua had finished speaking to the people, the seven priests with the ram’s horns began marching in the presence of the Lord, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed behind them. Some of the armed men marched in front of the priests, who blew their horns continually, and some marched behind the ark. However, Joshua had commanded the people not to shout or let their voices be heard until he gave the order to shout. Only when he gave the order were the people to shout. So, the ark of the Lord was carried around the city one time that day, then they went back to the camp and spent the night.

    • Joshua got up early the next morning and, again, the priests took the ark of the Lord. The seven priests, blowing their trumpets, marched in front of the ark of the Lord. Again, some armed men marched in front of the priests, and some marched behind the ark of the Lord. The second day they marched around the city one time and returned to camp. They did this for six days.

    • Starting at dawn on the seventh day, they marched around the city just as they had done the previous days, but this time they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their trumpets, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! Because the Lord has given you the city! The city and everything in it are set apart to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house will be spared from death, because she hid the messengers we sent. Stay away from the things that are devoted to destruction so you won’t take any of them and bring about your own destruction, and bring disaster to the camp of Israel by making it an object for destruction. Everything made form silver, gold, bronze, and iron are holy to the Lord and must go into His treasury.”

      • Skeptics often define Joshua’s conquest as a divinely ordained genocide. While it was certainly brutal, if we’re appropriately employing the term “genocide,” Scripture makes quite clear that this is term doesn’t fit. defines genocide as, “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a group of people because of their ethnicity, nationality, religion, or race.” The closest you could get to an identification of “genocide” here is claiming killing due to a particular religion. Yet, even this is not an appropriate categorization due to the fact that it was particularly heinous practices within the pagan religions that resulted in judgment rather than the religion itself. Practices no one in modern society would condone, such as child sacrifice and bestiality. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible makes another relevant point:

        • It is stated in the Torah (Deuteronomy 20:10-15) that Israel will live among the inhabitants of the land, and the Law established rules for treatment of foreigners. It is also clear that many non-Israelites lived within the land (e.g., Gibeonites). The emphasis is on God’s judgment of the Canaanites and protecting the Israelites from falling into idolatry and apostasy (Deuteronomy 7:1-6) rather than on giving a complete description of the conquest.”

      • All of the above being said, I have come to believe there is actually much more to this story. If you’re like me, you tend to glaze over the names of the people groups and their geographical locations. Being introduced to the work of Dr. Michael Heiser has cured me of this apathy. You will notice as we progress through the book of Joshua that the troops receive varying orders regarding how they are to deal with the inhabitants of specific geographical locations. In some cases, the Israelites are ordered to kill every man, woman, and child. In some cases merely taking over the land is enough. The inhabitants are allowed to flee and the Israelites are allowed to take captives as laborers. Without a clear understanding of who the particular people group is and the geography they are inhabiting, the fate of these individuals seems completely arbitrary. The truth is, there is a very clearly discernible rationale for what type of conquest is commanded- if one is open to see it. To begin with, I’ll discuss the 3 different Hebrew conquest words used.

        • Heiser writes:

        • The first is kherem: “The idea of kherem is broader than warfare. Fundamental to the concept is a sanctioning of some person or thing because it is forbidden either due to an accursed status or due to Yahweh’s exclusive ownership and use.” (The Unseen Realm p. 203. Heiser’s footnote cites the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament p.474); “The idea of kherem is devoting something wholly to God. As Naude notes, the verb ‘involves consecration of something or someone as a permanent and definitive offering for the sanctuary; or in war, the consecration of a city and its inhabitants to destruction and carrying out of this destruction…” (The Unseen Realm footnote p 211)

        • Another is garash: “to drive out”: Exodus 23:28-31; 33:2; Deuteronomy 33:27; Joshua 24:12, 18. (The Unseen Realm, footnote p 211)

        • Last is yarash: “to dispossess, drive out”: Exodus 34:24; Numbers 21:32, 33:52, 53, 55; Joshua 3:10; 12:1; 13:6; 17:12-13; 23:5, 9. (The Unseen Realm, footnote p 211)

      • So, what is this clearly discernible rationale I mentioned above? It revolves around what Heiser refers to as the “Deuteronomy 32 worldview.” If you aren’t familiar with it, I highly recommend that you refer to my notes for Deuteronomy chapter 32 before continuing the notes for this chapter. For that matter, before you delve into the Deuteronomy 32 worldview information, I suggest you view my article, The Mystery of the Nephilim: An Analysis of Theories, to get a firm grip on the insufficiency of all non-supernatural theories for the identity of the Nephilim and the sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4. I wrote that article long before I had been exposed to Heiser’s work and at a time when I would have been extremely skeptical of the information that will follow. Even then, I could not logically accept the only non-supernatural explanations that exist. Recognizing the deficiency of the modern day mainstream “accepted” explanations (I note that they are favored in modern day, because historically in the church, the non-supernatural views were in the minority) for the Nephilim passages will go along way in opening one up to alternative explanations, despite how uncomfortable they may be at first. For those who are already familiar, Heiser explains how Joshua’s conquest should be understood:

        • Joshua’s kherem must be viewed against the backdrop of Genesis 6:1-4 and what I’ve called the ‘Deuteronomy 32 worldview’: Yahweh had disinherited the nations, assigning them to the rule of lesser gods. Genesis 6:1-4 is evoked by Israel’s initial contact with the occupants of the land in Numbers 13:32-33, where the giant Anakim are described as descendants of the Nephilim. As we’ll see…this belief is behind the conquest passages that use the verb kharam (‘devote to destruction’) to describe Israel’s warfare on certain occasions… Israel is Yahweh’s elect portion of humanity, and the land of Canaan is the geography that Yahweh, as owner, specifically allotted to his people.” (The Unseen Realm p 203)

      • In the view of the biblical writers, Israel is at war with enemies spawned by rival divine beings. The Nephilim bloodlines were not like the peoples of the disinherited nations. Genesis 10 clearly casts the human inhabitants of those nations as owing their existence to Yahweh, as they descended from Noah’s sons… all the way back to Adam. The Nephilim bloodlines had a different pedigree…They were produced by other divine beings…Coexistence was not possible with the spawn of other gods…Viewed against this backdrop, Joshua’s kherem is a holy war begun by Moses in the Transjordan, specifically against the Amorite giant kings Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:34) and Og (Deuteronomy 3:6). The lives of Israel’s enemies were to be ‘devoted to destruction’ as an act of sacrifice to Yahweh.” (The Unseen Realm p 203-204)

        • I recommend Dr. Heiser’s article, “The Giant Clans and the Conquest,” for additional information. It should be noted that Heiser is not alleging that only individuals from Nephilim bloodlines were actually killed in the conquest. Instead, he argues that the geographical locations to which the command for total destruction were given were all locations where they were known to be. Not everyone in these cities would have fallen into this category, rather these “Anakim” were scattered among them. The following is Heiser’s “run-down” of the geographical areas in which the command for complete destruction was commanded. Not surprisingly they correspond with other passages identifying them with presence of the Anakim:

          • Numbers, Deuteronomy = Sihon and Og; Joshua 2 = Jericho; Joshua 6-8 = Ai; Joshua 10 = Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Debir, Makkedah. In several instances Joshua and the Israelites pursue the inhabitants to other places, so when we read language like “Joshua left none remaining” in certain instances, the language may refer to the people they were chasing. In any event, the places are all in the hill country; Joshua 11 = Hazor (upper Galilee hill country).”

          • Heiser aptly points out that this is the precise reason for Joshua’s summary in Joshua 11:21-23, “Notice that the summary doesn’t say, ‘There were no more [fill in the people name] in the land of the people of Israel’ because ‘Joshua had cut off [fill in the people name].’ The conquest is defined as a success along specific lines: elimination of the Anakim from the hill country so that none of them were in Israel’s land. I also think it’s why the ‘mop up’ that occurred afterward in the days of Joshua also focused on the elimination of the Anakim by Caleb — again in the hill country (Joshua 14-15).”

    • When the people heard the prolonged blast of the trumpet, they gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. The Israelites charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. They devoted everything in the city to destruction, killing every living thing with their swords- every man, woman, child, ox, sheep, and donkey.

    • But Joshua had told the two men who had previously been sent to scout the land to go to the prostitute’s house and bring her out along with all the people who were there with her as they had sworn to her. The young men obeyed and brought Rahab, her father and mother, brothers, all all her relatives with her and put them outside Israel’s camp.