Joshua 6:20 (ESV) … “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.”
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (Heb. 11:30). “And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV).
Faith is not believing in spite of evidence, for the people of Israel had been given one demonstration after another proving that God’s Word and God’s power can be trusted. The Lord had opened the Red Sea, destroyed the Egyptian army, cared for His people in the wilderness, defeated great kings, given Israel their land, opened the Jordan River, and brought His people safely into the Promised Land. How could they do anything other than believe Him!
Joshua first shared the Lord’s plan with the priests. It was important that the ark of the Lord be in its proper place, for it represented the presence of the Lord with His people. When Israel crossed the river, the account mentions the ark sixteen times (Josh. 3–4); and here in 6:6–15, the ark is mentioned eight times. Israel could march and the priests blow trumpets until all of them dropped from weariness; but if the Lord wasn’t with them, there would be no victory. When we accept God’s plan, we invite God’s presence; and that guarantees victory. (See Ex. 33:12–17.)
Then Joshua instructed the soldiers. He probably didn’t enlist the entire army for this important event; for that would have involved far too many people. According to the military census of Numbers 26, there were over 600,000 men able to bear arms. Think of how long it would take that many men to march around the city walls! And when the walls fell down, Joshua certainly didn’t need hundreds of thousands of soldiers to rush in and overcome the people. The men would have been falling over one another!
Over 2 million people were in the nation of Israel, and marching all of them around the city of Jericho would have been time-consuming and dangerous. The people no doubt watched in silence from a distance and then participated in the great shout on the seventh day. It was a victory for Israel and Israel’s God, and not just for the priests and soldiers.
It’s important that leaders receive their orders from the Lord and that those who follow them obey their instructions. As with the crossing of the Jordan River, so also the conquest of Jericho was a miracle of faith. Joshua and his people listened to God’s orders, believed them, and obeyed; and God did the rest. When God’s people rebel against spiritual leadership, as Israel often did in the wilderness, it leads to discipline and defeat.
The activities of the week were a test of the Jewish people’s faith and patience. No doubt some of them were anxious to get on with the invasion so they could claim their inheritance and settle down to enjoy the rest God had promised them (Josh. 1:13). To some of them, it may have seemed a futile waste of time to devote an entire week to the taking of one city. Impatience was one of Israel’s besetting sins, and God was helping them learn patient obedience; for it’s through “faith and patience” that God’s people inherit what He has promised (Heb. 6:12). God is never in a hurry. He knows what He’s doing, and His timing is never off.
If the week’s schedule was a test of their patience, the divine command of silence was a test of their self-control. People who can’t control their tongues can’t control their bodies (James 3:1–2), and what good are soldiers whose bodies are not disciplined? “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). In the Christian life there’s “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7); and wise is the child of God who knows the difference. Our Lord is the perfect example of this (Isa. 53:7; Matt. 26:62–63; 27:14; Luke 23:9).
How did the people in the city of Jericho respond to this daily procession around the city? It’s likely that the march on the first day frightened them, for they probably expected the army to raise a siege against the city. But the Jews neither built ramps against the walls nor did they try to batter down the gates. When the marchers returned to camp after making only one circuit of the walls, the citizens must have felt greatly relieved. However, as the march was repeated day after day, tension must have grown in the city as the people wondered what would happen next. They knew that the God of Israel was a “great God of wonders,” whose power had defeated Egypt and the kings east of the Jordan. What would Jehovah now do to Jericho?
When the procession went around the walls seven times on the seventh day, the tension within the city must have increased to frightening proportions. Then came the blast of the trumpets and the victory shout of the people, and the walls fell down flat! All that the soldiers had to do was rush into the city and take over.
The Holy Spirit directed the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews to use this event as one of the “by faith” examples in Hebrews 11. The fall of Jericho is an encouragement to God’s people to trust the Lord’s promises and obey His instructions, no matter how impossible the situation may appear to be. You and I may not capture a city as Joshua did, but in our everyday lives we face enemies and high walls that challenge us. The only way to grow in faith is to accept new challenges and trust God to give you victory. “Do not pray for easy lives,” said Phillips Brooks; “pray to be better men and women. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for power equal to your tasks.”