5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him... 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:5,20)
The Record of a Miracle
The de-mythologizing of the Bible, begun in the nineteenth century, goes on apace. The last time I looked, theologians had labeled the creation of the world a myth, Adam and Eve mythical persons, the fall of man a myth, and the flood of Noah a myth. Everything must now have a "scientific" explanation-- that is, a naturalistic one. The crossing of the Jordan, we are told, was made possible when the river was blocked by a landslide upstream, that just happened to coincide with Joshua's invasion plan. All the priestly display: the trumpets and the shouting and the marching around Jericho for seven days before is just--- you guessed it--- myth. The wall of Jericho really fell down because of an earthquake, probably related to the same seismic activity that caused the stoppage of the Jordan. Some have even suggested that it was the sound made by the shouting and the trumpets that caused a sympathetic vibration in the wall and destroyed it.
Some Bible teachers have read these things in books by learned men and accepted them; but the fact is that not one of these explanations of the biblical miracles stands up under even a cursory examination. The text of holy Scripture does not at all allow for such imaginative interpretations. The fall of Jericho's wall was an astounding miracle! No natural cause can begin to account for the stunning display of God's wisdom, power and skill. For we read that the wall fell in such a way that:
1) it did not damage the houses--- even the houses that were on the wall
2) rocks and debris did not roll down the hill into the Israelites
3) there was no choking, blinding cloud of dust from its fall
4) it did not hinder the Israelites from immediately running uphill into the city and going through the streets
In fact, the wall fell down flat, that is, flush with the ground!
John Gill, the famous Hebraist and scholar of Jewish antiquities, comments:
and the wall of the city shall fall down flat; or "under itself" (a); which Jarchi interprets, in its place; that is, where it stood, and be swallowed up in it: so the Targum,"and it shall be swallowed up under it;''yet so that somewhat of it should be seen, as an attestation and proof of the miracle, as Kimchi; who says,"it means that it should be swallowed up in its place under the earth, and a little of it appear above ground for a memorial of the miracle:
and the people shall ascend up, every man straight before him; just as they were in the order of procession; for the wall being fallen everywhere, they would have no occasion to make up to one certain place, as when a breach is only made in one place, and the besiegers are obliged to go so many abreast to enter at it; but in this case they might go straight up from whence they were, and enter the city without any obstruction and difficulty.
The wall simply disappeared into the ground, leaving the city suddenly naked to attack from every direction, with the armies of Israel surrounding them. It was the defender's worst nightmare! They could not concentrate their forces at a single breach in the wall, and thus repel the invaders by superior force. They would have to address a sudden and wholly unexpected attack from every direction at once!
If the Jewish interpretation is wrong, then the only other alternative at all consistent with the details of the text is that the wall was laid down in unbroken sections, so that the Israelites could use them as pavement. If the wall was curved, as is likely, even this would not work; and only the Jews' explanation remains.
Some Significant Details
Now let's examine the text in detail. And first, we note that Rahab's house was "on the wall", and that the window of it opened without obstruction on the country outside. It will not do to say that the wall of the city was one wall of her house; for on that supposition, her house must have been destroyed or at least her window--- when the wall went down. But the window, and the cord hanging in it, were still there after the wall fell. So either there was a window in the wall of the city, and a corresponding window in her house; or the house rose above the wall, so that an unobstructed view of the countryside was possible from within her house. These are the only two possibilities.
Second, we note that Jericho was on a hill. One had to ascend a slope to enter it (Joshua 6:5, 20). This is usual for cities, especially fortified cities, and especially fortified cities near large rivers that overflow their banks regularly. So that, if the walls had "come a -tumblin' down", as the spiritual says, the surrounding armies would have had to retreat for a while to avoid the tumbling rocks, and then dodge around them to get to the city. But the Scripture says that they immediately ran straight uphill into the city.
Third, we note that the Israelites entered the city, and went from house to house executing their commission. An earthquake would have rendered this largely unnecessary and virtually impossible. If anything still stood, it would be unsafe to enter, and if everything was demolished, they would have had little work to do. But we have already seen that the falling of the wall was not the result of an earthquake which the Bible merely neglected to mention, but was a miracle of surgical precision. Rahab and her family were found in her intact house, which they must have entered from the unblocked city street, and conducted to the camp of Israel in safety.
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword. 22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. (Joshua 6:20-24)
The real myth-makers are those who fabricate, out of their own warped brains, stories that contradict the pure word of the Living God!
In Deuteronomy 1:19-36, Moses recalls the unbelief of the previous generation that got them banished from the promised land. When, upon the first arrival of Israel at the border of Canaan, Moses sent out spies to spy out the land, they reported, "The people is greater and taller than we; the cities are great and walled up to heaven; and moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakims there."(Deuteronomy 1:28) This was too much for the people--- their hearts fainted, and they refused to go up.
But now, that whole generation was dead and gone, and their children would not make the same mistake. Despite the appearances, they found courage in Jehovah to face the challenge. The LORD was more than a match for anyone, or any circumstance, that would stand in their way. They had already overcome their fear of giants in their recent conquest of Og, king of Bashan, who was at least twelve feet tall! They knew that those massive and high walls of Fortress Jericho were nothing at all to the God who made heaven and earth--- the God who drowned the hosts of Egypt in the sea. In answer to their faith, He simply took them down! He un-walled Jericho.
He will do the same for us. If we have a promise from God, be assured that He will fulfill it, even if it means the sudden and unlooked for dismantling of the most powerful institutions of men on earth. All we need is the faith to claim his promise and fight in His almighty strength. The Israelites did not have to be great warriors; they just had to obey. God would do the rest. He would adjust the task to their capacity.
What must the dwellers in Jericho have thought when they saw the army of Israel marching around their walls, ram's horns sounding, day after day? The traditional ways of conquering a city were not at all in evidence. They dug no trenches, threw up no barriers of earth and wood, carried no ladders, nor drew any siege engines. Instead of entrenching themselves to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the city, they marched around once, and then--- just marched away. And nothing happened. Day after day, they did this. They probably thought the seventh day would be like the sixth and the fifth, and all the others. Israel gave no clue at all of the master-plan, so there was no way to ready Jericho for opposition. Tense and baffled, worn out with suspense, wearied of the routine--- surely they could not have been more unready for what happened next!
Imagine the terror that must have seized the Canaanites when they heard the trumpet-blast and the shouting! And then, the wall of their city suddenly disappeared into the ground! They had already been deprived of courage by the word that had come out of Egypt years before; and when Israel had crossed the Jordan at full flood, they were so intimidated that they missed the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerability of Israel when the men were several days recovering from circumcision. Now the strong walls in which they had always trusted had just vanished! How could they fight such a foe? What point was there in resistance? Jericho's men, thus emasculated by fear, could be no match for men energized by the knowledge that Almighty God was on their side. Now Israel could see that the city was theirs for the taking.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will fight our battles for us, if only we will rise up like men and fight under His banner. The foes which we deem so mighty are not unconquerable, unless we choose not to fight, or unless we seek to overcome them with carnal weapons. In that case, our cause must fail. But the battle is the Lord's; and if we stand strong in His name, it is just a matter of time until He claims the territory that is His by right already:
"I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." (Psalms 2:7-9)
Howard Douglas King
July 3, 2015