Joshua 6:1-27

20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. …26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. [1]


Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came tumbling down.” That’s what the old spiritual says. But it’s not entirely correct. The walls certainly collapsed and “everyone charged straight in, and they took the city” (6:20 NIV), but Joshua did not fight the battle. God gave Jericho into Israel’s hands, and the entire account of this dramatic 6th chapter centers on the gracious gift of YHWH to his elect people and his terrifying wrath upon those who oppose him. The Lord alone is the hero of this narrative.

We left Joshua prostrate in worship on the holy ground created by the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ himself as the Commander of his army (5:13-15). Joshua went out to survey Jericho and found himself face to face with his Commander. Most likely, he had gone out to think through the military strategy by which he would lay siege to this heavily fortified guardian city, and instead he discovered that God’s plan was for him to take off his sandals and worship. It is a striking lesson.

But it could easily be misinterpreted. This is no justification for inactivity. As we will see in chapter 6, God’s people had a large part to play in the destruction of the city of Jericho. It was not simply handed over to them on a plate by overwhelming supernatural intervention, requiring them to do absolutely nothing. But the way in which the victory came was chosen by the Lord, so that it would ingrain itself in their memory as a gift of their gracious, sovereign commander.

What happened at Jericho was to be the pattern for all their future advances into this land of promise and rest. Later the author will tell us that, “the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers…. And the Lord gave them rest on every side” (21:43, 44). That is the lasting principle we are being taught. Obedient action in response to divinely given promises and accompanying heart change is the channel by which the Lord’s people experience the sovereign grace of their covenant Lord.

Different situations call for different tactics, but the principle remains the same. Israel’s previous generation learned the same lessons when they came out of Egypt. Led by God to their campsite facing the sea, with an impassable barrier in front of them and Pharoah’s elite troops closing in on them from behind, Moses instructed them. “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today…. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13, 14). The sea parted, the people crossed, and the pursuing Egyptians were doomed. Israel knew she had been delivered by supernatural power alone.

Three chapters later, they were attacked by the Amalekites at Rephidim. Moses instructed Joshua to choose an army and go out to fight. Joshua’s army overwhelmed the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-13). There is human action combined with obedience. The Israelites don’t simply stand and watch, they must take up arms and fight. But the battle only flows Israel’s way as Moses hands are lifted up to heaven, carrying his shepherd staff as a physical sign of their exclusive dependence on the power of YHWH.

The memory of that event was written in a book and recited to Joshua (Exodus 17:14) so that it would have profound influence on Joshua’s military and spiritual education. Now, at Jericho, the lessons learned reflect the same principle: trust in, and obedience to, God’s Word. We live according to that which we truly trust. Even our trust into God is itself a gift from God.

The chapter opens in verse one with a blunt statement of fact: “Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.” Jericho is at battle stations “because of the people of Israel” which is shorthand for all God has done for his people in bringing them from Egypt to this point. Jericho may know little of Israel’s God, but they cannot ignore the two and a half million people who have crossed the Jordan during a flood and who now threaten their citadel.

The pagans know that this conflict is unavoidable. So they seal themselves inside their fortress. There is no way in and no way out. Jericho is now a city under siege. And by all the normal rules of human military engagement this situation will have to be resolved by an Israelite attack. And that is a daunting prospect for an underequipped and inexperienced body of fighting men. It is just as impossible to think of them overcoming Jericho, a Garrison city, as it was to think that they could cross the Jordan in full flood.


Beginning with verse two, we now have the instructions that the Commander of the Army of the Lord has given to Joshua, which are then passed on to the priests (6:6) and to the people (6:7). This is the answer to Joshua’s request, “What does my Lord say to his servant?” (5:14). The modern convention of chapter numbers and verses does not serve us well at this point. These verses are the strategies of the divine commander. The commands, as always, are based upon the promises. Imperatives are possible only because of the indicatives.

Verse two is a huge statement of fact, though its experience is entirely future: “See, I have given Jericho into your hand.” The word “see” draws the attention to this statement as a supreme revelation on which everything else hangs. Look, focus here, set your mind on this. There is not a shred of doubt about the outcome. This sentence recalls the promise made in 1:3, which came with the command to cross the Jordan, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you.” God’s promises are so certain, so true, that the future can be expressed by a tense of completed action.

The subsequent instructions follow the certain promises. The imperatives follow the indicative. On that basis, the pre-incarnate Christ gives his command to march around the city (6:3) along with the subsequent instructions that follow. For each of the next six days the entire army is to march around the city walls once, presumably out of the range of projectiles. But the emphasis is not on the fighting men. It is on the ark of the covenant, the symbol of God’s divine presence.

God is with his people to accomplish his victory for them. He is not remote or at arm’s length but is leading his people by means of his holy presence, just as he had done through all their wilderness years. That is why the text emphasizes the number 7. It occurs four times alone in verse 4. Seven is the number of divine perfection, reflecting the 7th day of rest at the end of the six days of creation. The six days of circling the city culminating end on the 7th day with its seven circuits around Jericho.

The presence of the ark is heralded by 7 priests continually blowing on 7 ram’s horn trumpets (5:9) ending in a long blast after the 7th circuit on the 7th day, which is the sign for a great shout from the people and the collapse of the city walls. The Amorites have been given 6 days to repent and cry out to Yahweh for mercy. On the 7th day their iniquity is fully complete and only judgment and wrath await them. In verses 5 and 20, the literal translation is, “the wall of the city will fall under itself.” That is, it will collapse as though from pressure from above rather than from outside.

We wonder what the reaction was when Joshua passed on this divine strategy to the priests and the people (6:6,7). Humanly speaking, the divine plan seems largely irrelevant and completely ineffective. Yet, these were people who had seen the Jordan parted and walked into the land on its dry bed. So they meet the commands with obedience because the promises on which they were built were met with faith. This is how the New Testament teaches us to look at this extraordinary event. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been in circled for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30).

The cities of Palestine in this period were not large. Jericho measured [about] 225 by 80 meters and its circumference was 600 meters. The length of the column that marched around the city is not known. This would depend also on its depth. In view of the large numbers of marchers one must assume that the head of the column had long returned to the camp when the others were still marching.[2]


In verses 8-14, the author focuses on the detailed execution of the commands in preparation for the fall of the city. That fall is described in verses 15-21 in the context of further precise commands and instructions about how Israel is to proceed. It is likely that these instructions are placed at the climax of the narrative on the 7th day to emphasize their importance and the obedience of the people. They also enhance the dramatic effect (6:17-19).

But the most likely scenario is that these instructions were given before the event rather than in the immediacy of the moment, since they govern what Israel’s behavior is to be following the collapse of the walls. By placing Joshua’s instructions in this section and making them the climax of the action, the author is emphasizing the people’s obedience. They actually did exactly what they were instructed to do such that the instructions and the narrative are exactly the same.

Verses 8-11 show us a vivid picture of the first day’s encirclement. The army is divided into two parts, the first leading the procession (6:9a), with the focus on the trumpet-blowing priests announcing the arrival of the center of the event, “the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (8b). The point of this parade is to focus attention on the ark as the presence of YHWH. The rest of the army forms the rear guard (9b).

The only sound is the continual blowing of the seven trumpets. But there is no shouting or even speech among the people on the six days they march around the compound. The shout is to be reserved for the very end (10b). This description of the instructions increases the dramatic buildup of the story. Verses 12-14 describe the second day of identical activity. We, the readers, know what is going to happen on the 7th day, but we have to wait for it through the tension building device of repetition.

In verse 15 we come to the 7th day, starting at dawn with seven circuits around the compound to be completed. There is no additional description of the marching given until the command to shout is fulfilled in verse 20. In between what might seem to some readers an anticlimax is the detailed instruction given about what is to be done with the city and its people, including Rahab. For the sake of the narrative, we need the information of verses 18 and 19 in order to understand what is going to happen in chapter 7.

But beyond the coherence of the narrative, here is the central lesson of the victory of Jericho. It occupies center stage because this is the most important perspective of the story. It is there to teach Israel essential principles that are to govern their further conquest of the land and their possession of it.

With the exception of Rahab and those gathered in her house, marked out by the scarlet cord that demonstrates their trust in Yahweh’s promise of salvation (2:14-21), “the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction” (6:17). When God’s wrath falls, only trust into his grace, which he freely offers, will rescue sinners from destruction. Israel learned that lesson on the first Passover night in Egypt (Exodus 12:13). Rahab and her household are justified by their saving faith. The rest of the city and its treasures are to be destroyed, as God had previously commanded through Moses (Deuteronomy 7:1-5; 20:16-18).

We should acknowledge that this is a very strange concept to modern ears, and to many, an objectionable and unacceptable one. This is the first occurrence in Joshua of the concept of “devoted things,” things set apart as an offering to the Lord for destruction. The Hebrew phrase refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to God, often by totally destroying them. The noun is herem, and its verbal root is haram, Meaning to set apart, or devote, with the object belonging to the Lord for him to determine its use or destruction.

Whatever is devoted to the Lord is entirely and unchangeably his property. That is true of absolutely everything within the created order of the universe. God owns everything because he has created everything. Even human creations are entirely dependent on the raw materials God has made. So, God has the right to dispose of anything within the created order according to his sovereign will.

This biblical principle is fully developed in Romans 9: 21-23, where Paul writes, “21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory….”[3]

We have no right to answer back to the Creator or to question his wisdom. So there can be no question about the justice of God’s judgment against Jericho. In fact, the divine justice of the Canaanite conquest is a major theme in the Old Testament, reaching back to Genesis 15:16 where he tells Abraham it will be several generations before the promised conquest is realized because the sin of the Amorites was not yet complete. But with seven days of dramatic testimony of God’s presence by Israel to the inhabitants of Jericho, and with almost all of Jericho trusting into their walls rather than God’s grace, they are now ripe for destruction.

Moses talked to people in Deuteronomy 9:5, “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” Judgment is always God’s final resort, and in this case, it came after generations of pagan provocation through sexual perversions, child sacrifice, and other demonic abominations (Leviticus 18).

By recognizing the devotion of Jericho to God to destroy them, Israel itself was being set apart. They were not being set apart because they were less sinful, what would cause God had chosen to rescue them, to covenant with them, to redeem them from slavery to be his special possession, his treasure chest, his exclusive property. They were to be set apart for holiness and life rather than for judgment and destruction solely upon the basis of God’s free will to love whom he pleases.

Scripture does not allow for the claim that the pagans of Canaan were not guilty because they had not received the Mosaic Law. Speaking of God’s wrath being revealed against all human ungodliness and unrighteousness, the Apostle Paul declared the entire human race is morally culpable before God for the suppression of the truth that he has revealed:

19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [4]

With the exception of Rahab and her family, the citizens of Jericho were disobedient. They were not without the knowledge of God, both through his general revelation and through the residue of his image within every created being, however rebellious and depraved. Additionally, they received the specific revelation of God’s redemptive deliverance of his people from Egypt and had themselves witnessed the miraculous crossing of the Jordan.

The text in this book highlights the hardening of the Canaanites’ hearts against God and his purposes and their refusal to beg for terms of peace. The Canaanites hardened their own hearts, but it was also an act of God’s judgment for them to do so. So given over were these people to their sin, they reasoned that the physical walls they had built were more powerful than the God who could part a sea or shut off the flow of a river.

If Rahab was willing to change, others could have done so as well. If the Gibeonites (chapter 9) were willing to sue for peace, other people might have made similar requests. Instead this people chose to resist Israel’s God, and they bore the full consequence of their choice. Note that these instructions to wipe out the Canaanites were specific in time, intent, and geography. Israel was not given blanket permission to do the same to any people’s they encountered at any time or in any place. These instructions were limited to the crucial time in salvation history when Israel was establishing itself has a theocracy under God. God specifically declared he was using them to punish these specific people and cleanse the land of demonic idolatry.

Israel’s instructions for that time and place in salvation history do not apply to the age of the Church. The Church has no permission from God to go to physical war over moral or religious issues. We note what the apostle Paul says about Christian warfare in the era following Calvary, likely alluding to Joshua 6:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. [5]

It is not jihad but Jesus who wins the victory for those who trust into his perfect-lived life and sacrificial, blood-shedding death. Nothing pleases the devil more then to get God’s people to fight earthly battles with human weapons, especially when those battles are between believers in the Church.

In 6:18-19, we see the outworking of the principle of dedicating people and things to God. If everything in Jericho belonged to God, then to keep any of these things (silver, gold, bronze, iron, valuable garments, animals, or slaves) for oneself would be to align yourself with what had to be destroyed. The entire camp of Israel would then be liable to destruction, not simply for stealing from God what was rightfully his, but because taking devoted things made them liable to destruction as the human possessor of devoted things.

The actual fall of Jericho is described minimally in verse 20 as the trumpets blow and the people shout, both as a war cry and a victory celebration since the destruction of the citadel was so immediate. Verse 21 details the obedience of the Israelites in destroying everything and everyone set apart for judgment by God.


The text invites the presumption that there was still one section of the wall standing. Rahab’s house would have been recognizable for the scarlet cord in the window. But now it is the only one still standing. The two spies reenter the story and, in specific obedience to a direct command from Joshua, they go into Rahab ‘s house and bring her and her family out from the surrounding chaos of God’s wrath. This band of people is also dedicated to the Lord. They are dedicated to the Lord for salvation, not destruction.

Because the gracious covenant God of Israel had dedicated himself to this pagan prostitute and changed her heart to trust into his salvation, she and all who belong to her are “saved alive” (6:25). The verse adds, “She has lived in Israel to this day.” That does not necessarily indicate that the book was written soon after these events. The use of a proper name can sometimes stand for their descendants, and that may be the case here. It may simply indicate that the salvation of the Lord is not temporary but eternal. Rahab lived on through her descendants, including King David and the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the Commander of the Army of the Lord.

God’s promises have lasting value. He does not change. He will not go back on his word. There in the midst of Israel is the living proof. Rahab and her family began outside the camp of Israel (23b), but soon they were living among the people and eventually she finds her true place in the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1:5).

That into which you place your trust has eternal consequences. The people of Jericho trusted into their walls and into their demon gods. God devoted them to utter destruction. Rehab and her family trusted into the one true Creator, the Covenant God of Israel. Jericho was to be left a place of desolation to illustrate the eternal wrath of God against all those who trust into themselves, their walls, their wealth, their neighbors, their own self-absorbed little “kingdoms of me”, and their demon gods lurking behind all their idols (6:26).

All the seemingly-safe walled kingdoms you build for yourself will be swept away by God’s just wrath upon all who reject him. But all who trust into God alone for their salvation will never lose their place among the people of God and will enter into his eternal Kingdom where he will be our God, we will be his people, and we will tabernacle face to face with him.

Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant….[6]



[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jos 6:20-21, 26.

[2] Jackman, 92, quoting Woudstra.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 9:21–23.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 1:19–23.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Co 10:3–6.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 55:1–3.