The Point of Jericho
by Jacob Hudgins
When Israel crosses into the land of Canaan, God gives an odd battle plan. “You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus you shall do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets”(Josh 6:3-4). Having wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, God expects Israel to march for a week around Jericho and wait for the walls to come down? What is going on here? What point is God making?
Israel must show their willingness to believe Jehovah again. God has already tried to lead his people into the land of Canaan. Israel sent spies into the land who came back lamenting that they could never take the land. “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?’”(Num 14:11). Jehovah sees this response as a faith issue. He promises that none from that generation (with a couple of exceptions) will be allowed to enter the land.
Now that 40 years have passed and a new generation has arisen, Jehovah is going to ensure they believe him. They must follow his instructions exactly and believe that he will give them the city when they obey. The Israelites must prove their faith by obeying. God is faithful to his word and blesses them when they trust and obey him.
Jehovah must receive the glory. God begins his instructions to Joshua with “See, I have given Jericho into your hand”(Josh 6:2). Israel does not conquer the land. God gives it. He has assured them that it is not because of their righteousness (Deut 9:4, 6). Rahab declares, “I know that the LORD has given you the land”(Josh 2:9). Yet this unique battle plan ensures that no man can take credit for God’s victory. Joshua is not a master general. The Israelites are not a superior army. Jehovah wins the day for his people.
The story of the conquest of Jericho is a strange one, but it is instructive. It reminds Christians that we show our willingness to believe God by obeying his word—even if that word seems strange. It also means that when we obey him, it is God who is glorified, not us. May God bless us to trust and obey him!