Friday, October 5, 2012

LXVIII - The Battle of Jericho - Joshua 5:13 - 8:35

Actually we're going to look at three battles in this post.  With God's help the Israelites miraculously crossed the swollen Jordan River, and were camped at Gilgal, about two miles east of Jericho.  (that map I mentioned is a good reference at this time.)  Jericho was just five miles west of the Jordan and actually guarded the pass that lead to the central highlands, through which Israel must travel to conquer the land.  Therefore, Jericho must be their first conquest.  {Remember, to be in keeping with the instructions of Moses, they must reach the two mountains of Ebal and Garizim.}  Israel could not have afforded a defeat at Jericho, as a defeat would have disheartened them to the point of turning back.  God knew this, thus He had to take matters into His own hands.

Joshua 5:13-->  Joshua looked toward Jericho and saw one of God's warrior angels, sword drawn.  After he realized whom he was talking to he fell facedown in an act of reverence.  In chapter 6 we see what the angel's instructions would be.  Note that God tells Joshua that He has delivered Jericho into the hand of Israel.    But Joshua must follow God's instructions in order to secure this important military victory.  The instructions were that for six days, the Ark of the Covenant was to be carried around the city of Jericho, with a forward and a rear guard, followed by all of Israel.  Trumpets would be sounding, but all the people would be silent (vs 10).  On the seventh day, they were to circle Jericho seven times in the same manner.  After the seventh time on the seventh day, all the trumpets would sound and the people would shout as loud as they could, at which time God would cause all the walls of Jericho to collapse.  This would allow all the Israelite soldiers to enter the city all at once rather than trickle through a gate.  So shocked would the Jericho soldiers be, they would be too devestated to put up much of a fight.  Imagine just the noise of the walls collapsing plus the shout of the entire nation Israel after six days of total (and eerie) silence.   These soldiers of Jericho were, at best, preparing to defend the opening at the main gate.

The entirety of chapter 6 tells of this great victory, but we must look at a couple of interjections in the chapter, starting in verse 17.  Joshua remembers Rahab the Canaanite prostitute and is determined to honor the pledge given her by the two Israeli spies she helped (2:12-14).  Another part of God's instructions was given in verses 17-19.  Everything in the city except silver, gold, and articles made from bronze and iron was to be captured and given to the tabernacle treasury.  Everything else was to be destroyed.  If anything was taken and kept, all of Israel would be punished.  {This is not normal in warfare of this time period.  When I've read this passage in the past, I've brought this into question.  Usually, the spoils of war were taken by the victors, but God instructs them to destroy EVERTHING, except those items mentioned.  "Everything" included men, women, children, slaves, livestock, food, clothing, buildings, utensils, etc.  Normally in warfare, the men would be killed and the women and children would be taken as slaves.  Also, all possessions would be taken and would become the possessions of the victors.  But in this situation, God wants it all destroyed.  I submit for consideration that since this is the first battle in the Promised Land that perhaps God would consider this His tithe, or first fruits.}

Chapter 7 is interesting reading (as most Scripture is).  Joshua gave specific instructions about taking no spoils from Jericho, but (vs 1) Achan took some anyway.  Then in verse 2 we see that the smaller, less fortified city of Ai must be conquered also to clear the way for Israel to penitrate the land.  Two spies were sent and reported back that only two or three thousand men were needed to take Ai.  So three thousand Israeli soldiers were sent to Ai.  They were defeated by the soldiers of Ai, handing Israel a devestating blow.  Joshua went to God in prayer, but Joshua doesn't appear in character.  Joshua's ancestrial tendancies came through and he made statements that sounded like the first generation coming out of Egypt.  But God likes Joshua and often encourages him.  In vs 10 God tells Joshua to stand up.  Israel's defeat is Israel's own fault.  God told him that someone disobeyed and has defiled the whole nation.  God instructs Joshua how to find the guilty person:  Joshua marched out all the tribes and God pointed out Judah as the guilty tribe.  Then Joshua marched out clans of Judah and God pointed out the Zerahites as the guilty clan.  Joshua marched out the families of the Zerahite clan and God pointed out Zimri's family.  All the family members were marched out and God pointed out Achan as the guilty person.  {Interesting, don't you think?}  Joshua compelled Achan to confess and he did.  But look at verse 21.  Remember what I said about the Tenth Commandment?  Achan admitted that first he coveted.  Please beware my dear children.  At the risk of being redundant and preachy, I must repeat my warning that most acts of sin are committed after the initial sinful thought of covetousness.  It goes on to tell how the whole nation participated in the execution of Achan and his family.  {A similar situation can be found in Acts 5:1-11 with Ananias and Sapphia in the early days of the Christian church.  But we'll get into that when the time comes.}

Chapter 8 tells of God giving Joshua instructions on how to conquer Ai.  This time Joshua did it God's way.  The first verse you'll see that God encourages Joshua.  He promises victory, then gives Joshua instructions on how to fight the battle.  But notice in verse 2 that the spoils were to dealt with a bit differently.  The Israeli soldiers were allowed to take the livestock and any other possessions for themselves as "spoils of war".  (Except any item which could be considered an idol used for worship.  God does not want these items to be in their possession, as the Israelites will be tempted to give the idols some level of importance.)  This time they were to take the entire Israeli army, instead of just a handful like the first time.  God delivered Ai, mostly due to using two ambushes.  Interesting reading.

With the defeat of Jericho and Ai, Israel had a clear path the whole Promised Land.  But the time had come for the nation to pause, give thanks, and recommit themselves to the Law and the Mosaic covenant.  Israel marched northward to the valley between Mt Ebal and Mt Gerizim.  There Joshua did as Moses instructed him (Deut. 27:2-26).  He built an altar, sacrificed and worshipped, and read the Law from the scrolls that had been placed in the Ark of the Covenant.

But their rest would not last long.

Next post:  Southern and Northern Campaigns

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