Joshua 6 – The Fall of Jericho


Joshua 6


Acting on instructions from the Lord, the Israelites march around Jericho for seven days and conquer the city when its walls miraculously fall down. Israel destroys the city and everything in it, except for Rahab and her family.


The taking of Jericho resembles a liturgical celebration as much as a military engagement. God tells Joshua, “See, I have handed Jericho over to you” (verse 2), and gives him specific instructions on how the city is to be conquered. Rather than trying to lay siege, or somehow penetrate the walls of the city, the Israelites are to march around it in procession for seven days. The ark of the covenant is carried in the procession, and the priests blow rams’ horns (shofars), used both in battle (Job 39:25) and in liturgical celebrations (2 Samuel 6:15; Psalm 81:3). On the seventh day, the walls fall down, and the Israelites “devote” the city to destruction; that is, they destroy everyone and everything in it, according to God’s commands. The only exceptions to the total destruction of property are things of gold, silver, bronze, and iron, which are taken for God’s treasury.

The Israelites spare Rahab and her family, in fulfillment of the vow the spies made to her, and it is noted that her family “ever since” continued to live in Israel’s midst (6:25). Rahab and the Gibeonites (in Joshua 9) are the only explicit exceptions to the command that the inhabitants of Canaan are to be destroyed. It is worth noting, however, that in fact a significant number of Canaanites seem to survive the Israelite conquest and continue to live among the Israelite tribes (see 13:1-6; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12-13).

The conquering of Jericho is just the first of many instances in Joshua where the victory is won because of the Lord’s doing, not because of any action on the part of the Israelites. The victory at Jericho stands in contrast to the defeat at Ai (in the next chapter), in which God does not fight for Israel.