Chapter 6, part 2


I described various opinions about the “miracle” of the fall of the walls of Jericho and included some details. The following are more details. An understanding of how the Bible uses these details enhances our comprehension and appreciation of other parts of Scripture.


Jericho’s conquest and the creation of the world

            Chapter 6 is a literary gem. I pointed out the frequent use of seven in the last chapter. Here, it is worth noting that the author artistically presents his tale as being the opposite of the creation of the world. In creation, there was activity for six days followed by rest on the seventh, while the opposite occurs at Jericho. In creation, objects come to life, while here everything is destroyed. Creation ends with God’s blessing,[1] here activities conclude with a curse.[2]


The use of the antiquated shofar at Jericho

            Joshua lived when civilization used metal trumpets instead of ram horns. In fact, Numbers 10:1-10 states that God mandated that trumpets be blown as an alarm, to alert the Israelites to assemble, when Israel goes to war, on holidays, the beginning of months, and when sacrifices are offered.  Why did Joshua choose ram horns?

He did so because both the Israelites and the inhabitants of Jericho knew that this ancient instrument had been used on solemn religious occasions. It was sounded, for example, at the revelation at Mount Sinai.[3] Joshua’s seven-day ploy was designed, as I mentioned in the last chapter, on discomfiting the people of Jericho who had to be impressed and frightened by what they were watching. They knew that the ancient ram’s horn was used for worship.[4] Being superstitious, many most likely feared that the blowing of the ram’s horn produced magic. Thus its use enhanced Joshua’s goal of terrifying the people of Jericho.


The armed body

            Verse 7 states that an “armed body” marched in front of the ark and the rest of the people when the Israelites marched around Jericho for seven days. Since this troop is not identified, is it possible that this group was different than the two and a half tribes who had promised Moses and Joshua that they would lead the Israelites in battle until Canaan was conquered? No; scripture doesn’t have to give details when we can work them out ourselves and usually omits such details. We can see in chapter 22 that the two and a half tribes stayed with the Israelites until the people felt that the end of the conquest had occurred.


Rahab the prostitute

            No reason is given why Rahab, who was instrumental in aiding the destruction of Jericho, is called a prostitute only once when she is introduced in chapter 2, but three times in this chapter after her help was clear.[5]

The Babylonian Talmud[6] states that Joshua married Rahab and many prophets descended from the union. This source also says that she was kept outside the Israelite camp until she converted.[7]


The order that everything in Jericho was taboo

            Joshua ordered that no booty was to be taken at Jericho, everything in the city was cherem, taboo, to be devoted to God. Why? Midrash Numbers Rabba 14:1 suggests that this was done as thanks to God because it was the first conquest in Canaan. Moses also ordered that goods secured during the battle with Arad were cherem[8] and the prophet Samuel did so in the war against Amalek.[9]

The Bible does not indicate that the cherem was decreed by God; does this mean that God did not order it.  Yes; it is possible that this was a Joshua initiative. However, Scripture very frequently omits information that comes clear later, as I mentioned above regarding the armed body; thus it is possible that God did request the cherem.

[1] Of the conclusion, the Sabbath.

[2] In regard to the rebuilding of Jericho. This curse seems to have been fulfilled in I Kings 16:34, as stated in the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 163a.

[3] Exodus 19:13.

[4] It is still used today instead of a trumpet for the High Holiday services.

[5] Verses 17, 22, and 25.

[6] Megillah 14b.

[7] Many scholars contend that the early Israelites did not “convert” people; they simply joined the Israelites as citizens. The scholars say that the concept of conversion to the Jewish religion first occurred around 150 BCE.

Some scholars suggest that Rahab was excluded from the camp for a short period to protect her from zealous Israelites who knew that all the people of Jericho should be killed, but did not know that she was an exception because she saved the spies, as indicated in chapter 2.

[8] Numbers 21:2 and 3.

[9] I Samuel 15:3.