Read the Passage: Joshua 5:13-6:27
Divine Commander (5:13–15)
Joshua 2–5 covers some important events in the history of Israel. Joshua 2, which likely occurred chronologically before the events in Joshua 1, introduces Rahab into the story of Israel. She also appears in today’s passage, and would later fill an important role in the lineage of Jesus (cf. Matt. 1:5). Joshua 3–4 covers the crossing of the Jordan River, which entailed the Lord miraculously stopping the flow of the river, as well as God’s command for the Israelites to set up memorial stones, from the midst of the Jordan River, to testify of the people’s miraculous entrance into the Promised Land. Joshua 5 gives details about the circumcision of the Israelites upon entering the land. This event was a reminder both that the generation whom had left Egypt had died out and of the continued importance of the external ritual of circumcision that was first given by God to Abraham in Genesis 17.
Josh. 5:13–14 details Joshua’s interaction with One who identified Himself as the “commander of the army of the Lord” (Josh. 5:14). Note the parallels between this passage and Jacob’s interaction with a heavenly Being upon entering the Promised Land many centuries earlier (cf. Gen. 32:22–32). Such passages testify to the truthfulness of God’s placing an angel and flaming sword, after the fall of mankind, at the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:24). The Promised Land is a picture of the Garden of Eden. Upon meeting this heavenly Being, Joshua inquired about the Man’s allegiance. After hearing that this One was commander of God’s army, Joshua worshiped Him. The heavenly Being’s willingness to receive worship testifies to the identity of the Man being Christ Himself. In a similar manner to what He had told Moses at the burning bush (cf. Exod. 3:5), this Man instructed Joshua to remove his sandals, for the place was holy.
Jericho Captured (6:1–21)
The so-called battle of Jericho, which wasn’t much of a battle at all, is detailed in Josh. 6:1–21. Jericho was set on a hill and had a double ring of walls, the first of which was twelve feet thick and the second of which was six feet thick. Houses were built on or into the walls of the city (cf. Josh. 2:15). While the inhabitants of Jericho knew of God and about His mighty acts, they likely felt secure in their fortress of a city (cf. Josh. 2:10–11). The plan of attack disclosed by God was for a parade of Israelites to march around the city. This entourage would be led by soldiers, who would be followed by trumpet-bearing priests, the ark of the God, and more soldiers. This group was to parade around the city once for six days, with trumpets blasting. On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times and then, at Joshua’s command, they were to shout and watch the walls of Jericho fall down flat.
Rahab Spared (6:22–27)
Earlier, in Joshua 2, the Hebrew spies promised to spare Rahab’s life during the attack, since she had spared their lives from the city authorities. Joshua had been apprised of this promise (cf. Josh. 2:23) and, consequently, instructed the people at Josh. 6:17, saying, “Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” Here in Josh. 6:22–27 Joshua instructed the two spies that they were to go to Rahab’s house at the time of the battle and to bring her and her family to safety. At Josh. 6:23–24 we learn that Rahab’s parents, brothers, and possessions were rescued from the battle, but the rest of the city was subsequently destroyed with fire. Note that the red cord Rahab had been instructed to tie to her window (cf. Josh. 2:18) was likely symbolic of the blood of Christ, the true Passover Lamb (cf. Exod. 12:7).
After capturing and destroying Jericho, Josh. 6:26 records Joshua’s curious charge, “Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” This statement and the act of destroying Jericho may seem counter-intuitive, for Jericho was a well built, strategic city, and the Israelites were strangers in the land. Yet, these events serve to emphasize the fact that these events, while historically authentic, were an object-lesson that depicted greater spiritual truths. The destruction of Jericho depicted God’s judgment upon sin, which is total, complete, and irreversible. Those who do not learn from the example of the judgment of sin, and continue to sin themselves, will ultimately perish. Note that over 500 years later, a man named Hiel would fulfill Joshua’s prophetic warning as is recorded at 1 Kings 16:34.
- Why do you think God chose to give Israel victory over the city of Jericho in such a unique manner? How could this victory benefit Israel in future times of trouble?
- What is the significance of Joshua encountering the heavenly Being at Josh. 5:13–15? How would this event have impacted Joshua’s future ministry?
- Is there any significance to God having the people march around the city seven times? How would this have affected the inhabitants of Jericho?
- What can we learn about God’s grace and mercy from the example of God’s redeeming of Rahab (cf. Heb. 11:30–31; Jas. 2:25)? Why did only Rahab repent?
- Why did Joshua give a warning about rebuilding Jericho at Josh. 6:26? Wouldn’t inhabiting the city have been more practical for the Israelites?