THE BATTLE OF JERICHO
Hebrews 11:30, ESV
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
JOSHUA 5:13-15, NIrV
13 When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him. The man was holding a sword. He was ready for battle. Joshua went up to him. He asked, “Are you on our side? Or are you on the side of our enemies?”
14 “I am not on either side,” he replied. “I have come as the commander of the Lord’s army.” Then Joshua fell with his face to the ground. He asked the man, “What message does my Lord have for me?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals. The place you are standing on is holy ground.” So Joshua took them off.
Now that the Israelites had finally entered the promised land, it was time for their leader to get to work. What was Joshua’s job? To lead God’s people in battle against the wicked people of the land of Canaan. As Joshua prepared for their first fight, he saw a strange soldier with a sword. When Joshua asked, “Are you one of us or one of our enemies?” the stranger gave a surprising answer: “Neither. I’m the commander of the Lord God’s army.” This special sword-swinging stranger was sent to show Joshua that he wouldn’t be fighting alone – the mighty army of God would have his back!
+ Look back at verse 12. What happened after the Israelites ate food from the promised land?
+ Who else was told, “Take off your sandals. You are standing on holy ground.” (see Exodus 3:1-6)
JOSHUA 6:1-5, NIrV
1 The gates of Jericho were shut tight and guarded closely because of the Israelites. No one went out. No one came in.
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “I have handed Jericho over to you. I have also handed over to you its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all your fighting men. In fact, do it for six days. 4 Have seven priests get trumpets made out of rams’ horns. They must carry them in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times. Tell the priests to blow the trumpets as you march. 5 You will hear them blow a long blast on the trumpets. When you do, tell the whole army to give a loud shout. The wall of the city will fall down. Then the whole army will march up to the city. Everyone will go straight in.”
As Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land, he knew the people already living there weren’t going to give up their home without a fight. But Israel had no reason to fear – the Lord God had promised to fight for them! Their first stop was Jericho, a big city filled with bigger people circled by even bigger walls! Before the battle began, God told Joshua his strange plan: “Grab the ark, march around the city, blow trumpets, shout, and I’ll make the walls fall down.” Was this a weird way to wage war? Yup! But for the sea-splitting God of Israel, knocking down a couple of walls was a piece of cake!
+ Why were the gates of Jericho shut tight? (vs. 1)
+ What promise did God make to Joshua before sharing his battle plan? (vs. 2)
JOSHUA 6:6-14, NIrV
6 So Joshua, the son of Nun, called for the priests. He said to them, “Go and get the ark of the covenant of the Lord. I want seven of you to carry trumpets in front of it.” 7 He gave an order to the army. He said, “Move out! March around the city. Some of the fighting men must march in front of the ark of the Lord.”
8 When Joshua had spoken to the men, the seven priests went forward. They were carrying the seven trumpets as they marched in front of the ark of the Lord. They were blowing the trumpets. The ark of the Lord’s covenant was carried behind the priests. 9 Some of the fighting men marched ahead of the priests who were blowing the trumpets. The others followed behind the ark and guarded all the priests. That whole time the priests were blowing the trumpets. 10 But Joshua had given an order to the army. He had said, “Don’t give a war cry. Don’t raise your voices. Don’t say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city once. Then the army returned to camp. They spent the night there.
12 Joshua got up early the next morning. The priests went and got the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets started out. They marched in front of the ark of the Lord. They blew the trumpets. Some of the fighting men marched ahead of them. The others followed behind the ark and guarded all of them. The priests kept blowing the trumpets. 14 On the second day they marched around the city once. Then the army returned to camp. They did all those things for six days.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of someone stuck in the city of Jericho, surrounded by circling soldiers. Before all this strangeness began, you were already scared. Why? Because you’d heard rumors about the God of the Israelites splitting the sea and washing away Egypt’s mighty army. But after watching the people of Israel, you would also probably be a little confused. Instead of trying to smash your gates open or climb over your walls, the Israelites were circling your city, blowing trumpets and carrying a weird-looking gold chest. Had they come to fight a battle or put on a parade?
+ What did Joshua tell his army not to do? (vs. 10)
+ How many days had the Israelites marched around Jericho? (vs. 14)
JOSHUA 6:15-20, NIRV
15 On the seventh day, they got up at sunrise. They marched around the city, just as they had done before. But on that day they went around it seven times. 16 On the seventh time around, the priests blew a long blast on the trumpets. Then Joshua gave a command to the army. He said, “Shout! The Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and everything in it must be set apart to the Lord to be destroyed. But the prostitute Rahab and all those with her in her house must be spared. That’s because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the things that have been set apart to the Lord. If you take any of them, you will be destroyed. And you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. You will cause it to be destroyed. 19 All the silver and gold is holy. It is set apart to the Lord. So are all the things made out of bronze and iron. All those things must be added to the treasures kept in the Lord’s house.”
20 The priests blew the trumpets. As soon as the army heard the sound, they gave a loud shout. Then the wall fell down. Everyone charged straight in. So they took the city.
After marching around the city of Jericho seven times on the seventh day, I wonder if the Israelite soldiers were starting to feel dizzy! However, we can be sure that they had no reason to feel frightened. After all, the same Lord God who had washed away the Egyptian army had now promised to give them the city of Jericho. At Joshua’s order, every man gave a loud shout. And as their battle cries went up, down went the wall of Jericho! Just like God had made a path into the promised land by stopping the Jordan River, God had just made a path for the Israelite soldiers to enter the city of Jericho!
+ What would happen if they took Jericho’s treasures instead of destroying them? (vs. 18)
+ What did the soldiers do after God knocked down the wall for them? (vs. 20)
JOSHUA 6:22-25, NIRV
22 Then Joshua spoke to the two men who had gone in to check out the land. He said, “Go into the prostitute’s house. Bring her out. Also bring out everyone with her. That’s what you promised her you would do.” 23 So the young men who had checked out the land went into Rahab’s house. They brought her out along with her parents and brothers and sisters. They brought out everyone else there with her. They put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it. But they added the silver and gold to the treasures kept in the Lord’s house. They also put there the things made out of bronze and iron. 25 But Joshua spared the prostitute Rahab. He spared her family. He also spared everyone else in the house with her. He did it because she hid the spies he had sent to Jericho. Rahab lives among the Israelites to this day.
The Israelite soldiers rushed over the rubble of the wall on a mission to destroy everything. But two men hurried in with different orders. A few weeks/months earlier, these two men had been sent on a spy mission to Jericho. After their cover had been blown, they were facing certain death. But the two spies were rescued by the quick thinking of Rahab, a woman from Jericho. Because she saved their lives, they promised to save hers. “Tie a red rope from your window,” they told her, “Everyone inside will be saved.” Joshua sent these two spies into the city to find that red rope and keep their promise.
+ Who was rescued along with Rahab? (vs. 23)
+ What happened to the rest of the city of Jericho? (vs. 24)
HEBREWS 11:29-31, NIRV
29 The people of Israel had faith. So they passed through the Red Sea. They went through it as if it were dry land. The Egyptians tried to do it also. But they drowned.
30 Israel’s army had faith. So the walls of Jericho fell down. It happened after they had marched around the city for seven days.
31 Rahab, the prostitute, had faith. So she welcomed the spies. That’s why she wasn’t killed with those who didn’t obey God.
Marching around a city for seven days sure is a strange way to win a battle. Imagine being a soldier and hearing your commander say, “So here’s the plan: we march around the city and blow trumpets until the walls fall down.” You’d probably laugh right in his face! But when God gave his orders to Joshua and his men, nobody giggled.
The verses we just read from the book of Hebrews tell us exactly why Israel’s army took God’s strange orders so seriously – they had faith! Faith is believing that God’s words and promises are true. Faith means trusting God, even when his plan for winning a battle sounds absolutely nuts! These verses from the Bible book of Hebrews tell us that the Israelites won the battle not because they were great soldiers, but because they had faith in their great and mighty God!
The Israelites had good reason to have faith in God. About 40 years before the battle of Jericho, their parents and grandparents had seen God split the waters of the Red Sea and wash away the mighty Egyptian army. And just before the battle of Jericho, they had seen God split the waters again, this time stopping the Jordan River so they could walk across on dry ground.
But the Israelite soldiers weren’t the only ones who had faith. Rahab had faith, too. When she heard that God had given the promised land to the Israelites, she knew she was in trouble. Even the mighty walls of Jericho didn’t stand a chance against the sea-splitting God of the Israelites. Because she had faith, she saved the two spies instead of turning them over to the king of Jericho. Because she had faith, her family survived the battle of Jericho without a single scratch!
Faith is one of the most important words in the Bible. If you read all of Hebrews chapter 11, you’ll see all the amazing things God did for his people when they had faith, when they trusted that God’s words were true. But faith isn’t just something for people who lived thousands of years ago. Faith is just as important for us as it was for the Israelites on the day of the battle of Jericho.
Like God sent the commander of his army to be with Joshua in the battle of Jericho, God sent someone to save us from our sins – his only Son, Jesus. The battle against our sin was won the day Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins. And with the same power that knocked down the walls of Jericho, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. And here’s where faith comes in: God has made us a wonderful promise. If we have faith in this good news of Jesus, we’ll be saved from the forever fiery death of sin and instead spend forever in his good kingdom!
+ Why did the walls of Jericho fall down for the Israelites? (vs. 30)
+ What amazing thing happens when we put our faith in Jesus?