The people of Israel had been through hell and high water – literally. They had been slaves in Egypt specially delivered right through the sea. Finally, after forty years of stubborn, rebellious, complaining wandering in the desert, Joshua led them into the land God had promised.
In Joshua chapter 5, we find Joshua circumcising the sons of the Israelite slaves. Mom and Dad didn’t make it out of the desert, but their children did. The kids had been born on the way and had never been circumcised in accordance with God’s law. Just afterward they eat their last provision of manna and remember the Passover and God’s deliverance and mercy. Their new leader, Joshua, understands the order of importance when it comes to victory. First, his men must be physically and spiritually obedient and prepared, then they must listen to the Word of the Lord. Only after all of that is done do they begin to take what God has promised in victory. It is not until they are physically healed and spiritually prepared that someone important shows up. Joshua 5:14 tells us that the commander of the Lord’s Army comes and speaks to him about how to conquer the people living in the land God was giving to them.
Up until the point they arrive at the town of Jericho, all the people in the land have been in fear knowing what God had done for the Israelites in marching them through the sea. Rahab the prostitute had even said as much to the spies Joshua had sent (Joshua 2:9).
They were afraid, but it did not cause them to obey God or befriend God’s people. Instead, it caused them to shut themselves up inside the walls of their city. The people of Jericho had resolved that Israel would not be their master. No one could come in to their community and no one could go out to make peace or otherwise. “Thus were they infatuated and their hearts hardened to their own destruction – the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty.” ~ Matthew Henry
Those silly walls, as strong and mighty as they were, were no match for the Commander of God’s Army. Those walls were destined to fall flat despite how fortified and exclusive they were built to be.
The angel gives some rather bizarre instructions for this first military conquest in the promised land. He tells God’s people to take the ark of the covenant (symbolizing His presence), march around the city, and blow trumpets continually every day for seven days. The seventh day they were to march around seven times blowing the trumpets and then shout. That is what would make the walls of Jericho fall down.
There were several reasons why this was going to work and several reasons why God chose to do it this way. It was going to work, firstly, because it was God’s sovereign will, but, from a practical standpoint, the blowing of the trumpets from outside the walls of this closed city served to intimidate those therein. By doing so, God’s people were declaring war.
“They proclaimed war with the Cannanites and so struck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits, they were to be conquered and subdued. Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid. They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, ‘We shall have peace, though we go on.’ “ ~Matthew Henry
The trumpets themselves were least impressive. God loves to use the foolish things to shame the strong. Good news for me!
Another reason this worked, from an earthly standpoint, is that, while they may have feared firstly, after seven days of this ridiculous, noisy parade and no attack, the insiders doubtless began to think it was all a laughable show.
“Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came. Wicked men think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgement; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late…The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people…That which they trusted to for defense proved their destruction…they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them.” ~Matthew Henry
We all know how the story ends. The walls fall down flat at the shout of God’s people and Jericho is the city chosen to serve as an example to their enemies and an encouragement for the further conquests in taking over the promised land.
There were some practical and spiritual reasons why God chose to have his people conquer the city of Jericho in this way.
It made God’s glory known because only he can be credited with victory when a walled-in city falls at a shout. This parading around also served to honor his ark as well as his priests who were carrying it and sounding the trumpets.
There is not too far any of us can get in spiritual victory apart from the presence of God going with us. That’s why Jesus said, “…Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Furthermore, this was meant to test the faith, patience, and obedience of God’s people. Wonder what they were thinking. Wonder how they felt when they had to march around thirteen times. Thirteen trips around this city with nothing but a promise and their dull and meager instruments. Yet, the purpose of this slow going-round served to test as well as encourage them heartily when victory came. This was only the first battle. Many were to follow. This was for them to look back on and remember how strong and wise their God really was. He keeps his promises.
God is in the business of tearing down walls. So many times we find ourselves building them up, though. The weapons he gives have divine power to destroy strongholds. Jesus himself came to tear down the dividing wall of hostility and make one man out of two. He came to bring unity between God and man as well as man and man. He came to demolish strongholds.
Pray. Fast. Repeat. God will take care of the walls. They will fall when he is obeyed and honored by his people.
“The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies…Thus, shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.” ~Matthew Henry