Joshua: Chapter 6 - Jubilee at Jericho

Bible Study @ Hurst Gospel Hall

Author: John Whitmarsh
Added: 2008-09-29

Chapter 6 is the most well known chapter in the book of Joshua. We have already seen the link with chapter 2 but there is, surely, a link with all the chapters in Joshua up to this point. Chapter five, the most immediate of them, is all about preparation. The instructions for the successful defeat of the inhabitants of Jericho and the destruction of the city are not given until chapter 6. The reason that there was success at Jericho and no success the first time at Ai was that there was proper preparation before the walls of Jericho fell down and there was sin in the camp before the few men went out to Ai. Preparation, the right condition and state, is all-important for triumph in the Christian life and in Christian service. This truth cannot be over emphasised.

In chapter 6 we read of the priests but elsewhere we read of the priests the Levites as in 8.33

It would have taken one person about 15-20 minutes to walk around the walls of the city of Jericho. How long would it have taken all the people to walk around the city? They certainly needed to be up early on the last day.

1-5 God speaks to Joshua

6-7 Joshua speaks firstly to the priests and then to the people

8-11 The first day

12-14 The second day

15-27 The seventh day

6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.

Fear had gripped the city as described so eloquently in chapter 2. The children of Israel had been encouraged not to be afraid. It may have been that, many years before this event, the twelve spies had entered the land and ten came back with the evil report. But now there were two spies who had entered and the message that was transferred to the people was that they were not to fear. The people inside the city were more afraid of those outside the city than those outside the city were of those within. The city was, in effect, besieged. None went out and none went in. They had to rely on such supplies that they had within the walls. And yet this was not a siege that was going to last for months or years even. This was going to be over within a week.

The city was straitly shut up - literally 'the city shutting up was being shut up.' There is an active and a passive participle. Some translations are loose in that they say 'securely barred' or some such thing. There was determined effort made to make sure that any one who wanted to get in would have trouble doing so. There was difficulty getting out of the city as well should some have been inclined to do so.

6:2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.

God spoke directly to Joshua in the following verses. Joshua was told that the city was his for the taking not because the children of Israel's men of valour were mightier than those within Jericho but, simply put, because God had given the city into Joshua's hand.

6:3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once *. Thus shalt thou do six days.

The instructions that, if followed, were to bring success were simple. Strange but simple. They were to compass the city once every day for six days. Verse 3 highlights the men of war and their input.

It has often been pointed out that the inhabitants of the city would have thought that the action was strange and some have gone as far to suggest that they considered a marching army that did nothing but walk around the city as mad. The scripture does not mention this at all. Neither does it mention them hanging over the walls and laughing at the assembled and marching people. In fact the overwhelming evidence of scripture is that they were afraid having heard what the Lord had done through them in the past. Maybe we can use this scripture to encourage believers of this day not to take notice of any who would jeer at them because they were doing what God wanted but perhaps there are other more suitable scriptures to choose to emphasise this point.

6:4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.

The seventh day was to be different from the first six in that seven laps of the city were to be made. The same seven priests were to lead the ark each bearing a ram's horn, which was to be blown with a long blast at the end of the seventh circular journey. Verses 8 and 13 let us know that trumpets were blown as the ark was carried around the city. We must remember that the ark was carried each time they went around the city. It is, no doubt, because they had seen and heard that this was done at Jericho that the children of Israel thought that it should be done on every other occasion when the ark was taken into battle. They no doubt thought that God had sanctioned this action by His instructions on this occasion to Joshua. It was not so much the presence of the ark that won the battle for Joshua and the people but the presence of the Lord. That the ark signified His presence was not to be understood as a guarantee of success. God told the people via Joshua to take the ark on this occasion. When the ark went into battle on other occasions it was a decision made by the people alone and was used as some sort of talisman. Superstition was not the reason for the success at Jericho.

There was discussion as to the Sabbath for the indication is that the seven days followed each other. There is no mention of a day of rest. God has remained silent on this issue. The implication is that the seventh day, normally the day of rest, was the most active of all the days.

6:5 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.

It was only when the trumpet was blown with the long blast was heard that the people were to shout. It is assumed from the instructions given thus far to Joshua alone that at all other times there was to be no noise (gossip, chit chat, shouting) apart from the sound of the trumpets. This is confirmed by Joshua's instructions to the people in verse 10.

Verse 4 appears to link the ram's horn with the trumpet (as do verses 4, 6, 8 and 13) but in this verse there appears to be two separate instructions - the long blast with the ram's horn and the sound of the trumpet. However, the first instruction highlights what the priests were to do (when they shall make) and the second what the people ('ye' includes Joshua) were to hear. Priests and people are separated in this set of instructions.

A great shout was to be made at the long blast of the trumpet (to distinguish it from the regular sound they had heard on the previous days). A word on the trumpets is necessary as the word is mentioned fourteen times in this chapter (twice in the singular) and thereafter is not mentioned throughout the book of Joshua. There are two main words that are used to describe 'musical' instruments - the ram's horn and the trumpet. Verse 4 is the second mention in scripture of the ram's horn (Exodus 19.13 says, 'When the trumpet soundeth long...' and the word is the same as in Joshua 6). The word used is yobeel that indicates not only the instrument but also the long blast that the instrument makes. The long blast was a signal and all this is bound up in the word that is used for it signifies the start of a festival or jubilee.

The word for trumpets in Joshua 6 is showphar, a word with which many are familiar. We were shown a showphar and a ram's horn and the showphar was the larger instrument. The playing of trumpets is associated with gathering the people in Numbers 10.2 but these trumpets were specifically constructed out of silver. The Lord speaking to Moses said, 'Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.' The two silver trumpets (the word there is chatsotsrah) were used for gathering and for informing the people that they were on the move. There were only two of them and not seven as used in Joshua 6. We do not think that there were silver trumpets used on that occasion. It is interesting to note that the word translated as trumpets (i.e. trumpet in the plural) in the AV up to the book of Joshua is chatsotsrah because it is the two silver trumpets that is in view.

The showphar is mentioned in both Exodus and Leviticus in the singular where it is associated with the commencement of communication between God and Moses at the mount of Sinai and the announcement of the jubilee.

Of further note is that the emphasis in Leviticus 23, the memorial of blowing of trumpets, is on the blowing rather than the actual trumpet. Indeed the word 'trumpets' is added in the translation of Leviticus 23.24 to make sense. Numbers 29.1 gives instructions about the feast of trumpets but again the emphasis is on the blowing and the trumpet used is not specified.

Whatever the case with the trumpets/ram's horn in Joshua 6 they were not the silver trumpets of gathering. The people were not about to move but were on the move around the city. This was a battle situation though the battle was going to be without bloodshed on the part of the children of God and they were to enter the city unopposed. For the children of Israel it was a time of happiness and rejoicing. Mr. Newberry is very helpful in his margin for the long blast of the ram's horn. He marks it as jubilee, or long of sound, the Hebrew word being hayobelim from yobeel, meaning protracted sound. It is easy to see how the English word, jubilee, is an Anglicisation of the Hebrew word.

The wall of the city was to fall down flat or under it. Some translations have the definite article in italics indicating that the operative and generic word is wall rather than the number of walls (i.e. that there may have been more than one wall). An explanation was given of the walls of the city and the way by which the outer wall was to crumple allowing easy access via a ramp made into the city mound. It was stated that houses would have been built between the walls with Rahab's house having her house with one wall within the city wall. This was a newly expressed notion that may need a reference back to chapter 2 and verse 19.

The word for 'before' is the same as that used in verse 20 and is different from the word translated elsewhere in this chapter as before. It means that every person went up over against him.

6:6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD.

It was now Joshua's turn to pass on the words that he had heard to the people. He started with a word directed to the priests. Verse 4 has mentioned the ark but now the command is very specific - take up the ark of the covenant. Of the thirty times that the ark is mentioned in the Authorised Version of Joshua ten occur in this chapter. There were priests for the ark and there were priests for the trumpets. They were to bear the trumpets but in verse 8 we are told that they were to bear and blow the trumpets. The trumpet bearers were to be in front of the ark. Ahead of them, or so it appears from verse 9, were the armed men so that these were the first people seen as the people moved around the city wall.

Joshua is linked to his father here. Including a title of a part of Psalm 119 (verses 105-112) there are 30 mentions of Nun in the AV scriptures. To this must be added I Chronicles 7.27 where Nun is rendered Non and Joshua as Jehoshuah. Joshua is described as Joshua the son of Nun on ten occasions in the book of Joshua. He is mentioned by name on a further 157 occasions in the book. This is the only time that he is given this full title in chapter 6.

6:7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.

The implication of verse 7 is that the people followed the ark and the armed men went before the ark.

6:8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.

6:9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.

The order appears to be the armed men, the priests bearing and blowing their trumpets, the ark of the covenant bore by other priests, the people (though they are not mentioned in these two verses), the rearguard (or rereward) which was no doubt a set of armed men. The most important thing was that the priests blew with the trumpets as this is mentioned on three occasions in the two verses. The next verse teaches that apart from the sound of feet on the earth the only sound heard was the trumpets.

6:10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.

Shouting is the operative word here. The shout meant something but it would mean nothing if the shout came too soon. Not the slightest sound was to be heard from the mouth until the command to shout was given.

6:11 So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once *: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.

Verse 11 lets us know that the people were obedient to the commands that had been given for the first day. Notice that it was the ark compassed the city. Of course the people compassed the city for the last clause says that they came into the camp and lodged in the camp. But the ark and its movement is paramount.

6:12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.

The same is true of the second day. The priests took up the ark of the Lord as being the most important part of the instruction set.

We have already mentioned (see 3.1) that Joshua rose up early on a number of occasions.

6:13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.

The phrase pass on, or going on, or even this word continually has been used a number of times in this chapter. It is as if God lets us know that, just as He had commanded, so the people continued in the path that God had laid out for them. There was no deviation. They went on and on. When they were to stop they did so. There was no let up as far as obedience of the simple commands were concerned. They did exactly as they were told. Everything was done before the Lord, i.e. under His watchful eye, the people not being afraid of their God nor of the people in the city. Everything was calm.

6:14 And the second day they compassed the city once *, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.

The same was done on the second day as had been on the first. There was no one who said, 'Let's do things a bit differently. Let's try two times to day.' Simple commands and simple obedience. The same was true for day number three, and four, and five and six. Nothing had happened but that did not deter the people from doing what God had said should be done. There is no mention of Joshua telling the people that they were to do this for six days or for sixty days. Neither is there any mention of Joshua telling the people that on the seventh day they would have to march around the city seven times. Remember that they had to remain silent all the time that they circled the city.

6:15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.

They needed to rise early in the day as seven laps of the city would have taken a full day. There is no mention made of Joshua telling them why seven laps of the city was necessary. Whether he did or he didn't we do not know. All God records for us is that the people did as God had told Joshua they should.

6:16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.

The blast on the trumpets was the long blast that is associated with festivals and especially the jubilee. Then it was that this people who had remained silent for thirteen laps around the city were told to shout.

6:17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent

The word accursed is a very important word over the next verses and into the next chapter. Some translations use the term 'under the ban' instead of accursed. Others use the word devoted. The word is cherem meaning, variously, doomed, (to be) destroyed, devoted, and dedicated. The idea of devotion and dedication is clearly seen from the phrase to the Lord. Someone suggested that this was like the firstfruits of the land for the Lord. The idea of the doom is to be seen in the next verse, lest ye make yourselves accursed. The Lord was to get His portion from the victory. They city may have been given to the people (see verse 16 but also verse 26 which shows that the city was to remain flat and, presumably, uninhabited) but the city's contents were not to be taken by the people. These belonged to the Lord. Victory and ownership of the city was considered to be enough for the people. Normally a conquering people would claim the spoils of war as their own but God did not want that to happen. There was to be something for the One who had achieved the victory and God was going to see to it that He got His portion. This aspect of the devoted thing from Joshua 6 is extremely important and must be carried into the next chapter.

The only ones who were to live were to be the occupants of the house where Rahab lived just as the spies had promised in chapter 2. God was to honour that promise that had been made. Deuteronomy 20.10-16 says, 'When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: and when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thy hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: but the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.' There was to be utter destruction of life in the cities of those whom God was to give as an inheritance.

6:18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.

The accursed thing was not an unclean thing. It was a devoted thing. It was the Lord's portion. It was not because the spoils were dirty else God would not have said what He had said in Deuteronomy 20. It was because these spoils were consecrated according to the specific command of the Lord. Though it was that the things that were in the city were devoted to the Lord, as soon as they came into the wrongful possession of the people, then such things became a curse. The people were doomed as soon as someone took that which belonged to God. The instruction could not have been clearer. Do what they should not do and there would be trouble.

Trouble is a very important word in the next verses. It is the meaning of the name Achan, the principal character in chapter seven. It is the meaning of Achor at the end of that chapter. It comes from a word that means to disturb water such that the sediment is stirred. Removing the possessions and claiming them as their own when they belonged to the Lord would stir up trouble. Victory may have been assured because of ideal preparation and obedience to the Lord in the run up to the victory but we must never let our guard drop. It is so easily possible to allow ourselves to be tripped up during the victory itself.

6:19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

All the silver and all the gold and all the vessels of brass (or copper) and iron were the Lord's property and the Lord's portion from this victory. They were sanctified and set apart for him. They were to go into the Lord's treasury.

6:20 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.

Just as Joshua had been told in verse 5 and because the people were obedient then the Lord did exactly what He said was to be done. Everything was fine thus far.

6:21 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.

As this was the inheritance they destroyed everyone and every living thing within the city. This city had not sought peace though it may well be that to have sought peace would have been futile. Male and female, young and old alike were slain. The only ones who were preserved were those described to us in the next verse. God was gracious in victory and the spies' promise was acknowledged and honoured.

6:22 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.

6.23 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.

6:24 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.

6:25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

Grace spared Rahab and her family. The family members are not just dismissed as being just family but individual members are singled out - mother, father, etc. The city may have been cursed (how we must remember that) but that did not mean that God could not be gracious. These people were left without (or outside) the camp of Israel. It was suggested that there was a strong element of purification here. Perhaps that it also the reason why the city was destroyed by fire. And yet we must we remember that there was something to be removed from the city and to find its way into the Lord's treasury. Silver and gold and vessels of brass (copper) and iron belonged to the Lord. Chapter 6 leaves us with the warning given to the children of Israel not to touch the accursed (the devoted) thing. The narrative lets us know that the silver and gold and copper and iron was put into the Lord's treasury for in the main that is what took place. It is the triumph that comes with obedience that is described in chapter 6.

6:26 And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.

There was a further warning made in chapter 6. God wanted the city to remain flattened. The word adjure literally means to seven oneself in the sense of making a declaration seven times over. This was important. The children of Israel were to listen to this carefully and even if they were inclined to obey the oath they were also to make sure that this information got through to succeeding generations. They were to leave Jericho flat. Though it may have been strategically or commercially important had no bearing on the issue. Leave it flat. There was not only a curse on the things that were in the city but the city itself was the subject of a curse, even a bitter curse. It was some hundreds of years later that Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho and at what cost. I Kings 16.34, 'In his (Ahab's) days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho. He laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn (this means that his firstborn son died when the foundation was laid), and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub (this means that the finishing touches to the city like the hanging of the gates were accompanied by the death of his youngest, and, by implication, his last son), according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun.'

6:27 So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.

The people were at the peak of their powers. They were in touch with God. They had power with God. Joshua was at the peak of his powers too. There was triumph in the camp and why? It was the preparation that was correct. When we come to the next chapter we see that children of Israel suffer loss. They did not cease to be the children of Israel. Their standing was unchanged but their state was. Our standing will never change no matter our condition. But what God wants from these lives of ours is that we will be victorious Christians. Once a Christian always a Christian else the work of Christ is of none effect. It is eternal life with which we have been blessed. We are children of God and we cannot be unborn. That is our standing. We are seen in Christ. But our state can be affected and hence the warnings of chapter 6. There was victory and yet in that victory (and after the walls tumbled) there were the seeds of defeat.


It is preparation, simple faith and obedience to God's simple instructions that give us the victory. Strongholds can tumble. However, if in that victory God gives warnings for the next stage of taking up our inheritance, we do well to heed and obey the warnings.