(Warning: this is a LONG one!)
We are joining the ranks of the Israelites as they march around the city of Jericho. This is the fall of Jericho from the footsteps of a soldier.
This is the last of the three “first person” accounts of the events of that week. We stood with Joshua as he received and then conveyed God’s directions to the people. Then we waited inside the city as Israel used their VERY unorthodox military method to conquer the city. Now we will walk in the sandals of one of Israel’s fighting men as they submit to the Lord’s directions.
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David and Jeremey are talking in their tent that evening after hearing Joshua’s instructions. “ANYONE who knows ANYTHING about warfare knows that this is an absurd battle plan!” says David.
“That’s probably why the Lord chose to use it. He seems to like confounding the wise” replies Jeremey.
“Oh they’ll be ‘confounded’ all right” David says with a shake of his head. “I wonder what the inhabitants of the city are going to do.”
“I don’t know but I’m sure that the Lord’s hand will be sufficient to protect us, no matter what.”
“You’re right. I’m just thinking out loud.”
“Well you better stop ‘thinking’ and get some sleep. Tomorrow is a BIG day!”
Both men finally settle in for the night. Their snores can be heard coming from the bachelor’s tent in the tribe of Simeon. These brothers will be towards the center of the column that sets out for Jericho tomorrow morning.
At dawn the men begin assembling for their first day’s march. Swords are fastened to their belts. Leather breastplates in place and tunics shortened for fighting are tied securely at their wastes. The Ark is also ready for its journey. Its travel coverings are in place and the Levites who will carry it are arrayed in their priestly garments. Seven more priests have assembled who will be blowing the trumpets. David and Jeremey would be able to see the priests from where they will be located but it is possible they might be able to make out the movement of the Ark as it sits atop the shoulders of its bearers.
Before setting foot on the road to Jericho, Joshua addresses the troops. “I want to remind you all, ‘You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. THEN you shall shout’ (verse 10, emphasis added by me). The Lord our God is with us. Do NOT be afraid. He will do just as He has promised.”
The silent soldiers begin their march. The tribe of Judah sets out first followed by the priests sounding the trumpets and those carrying the Ark. Next come the tribe of Issachar. They serve as the rear guard for the Ark. Following next is the tribe of Zebulun. That completes the ranks of the men from the eastern side of the camp. The southern side follows next with the tribes of Reuben then Simeon and finally Gad. The western side follows next and is made up of the tribes Ephraim then Manasseh and Benjamin. Finally the northern side joins the procession with the men from the tribes of Dan, Asher and Naphtali. Each tribe is sending the best of their fighting men. Forty thousand from each tribe, except for the tribe of Simeon and Ephraim who don’t have that number. Their tribes are sending all their fighting men to this campaign. The same could be said for the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh since the rest of their people remained on the other side of the Jordan. Four hundred eighty thousand men strong leave that morning on the way to Jericho.
David and Jeremey are marching beside each other in their row of ten. They happen to be on the edge that will be facing the city. David likes this because he wants to observe the reaction of the people of the city while Israel marches.
The march to Jericho took most of the morning. David liked seeing the fields white with grain for harvest along the way. Once the city was taken they would be harvesting these fields as they would belong to Israel at that point. The roads were well traveled but the girth of the column took up its width entirely. Even though the roads were packed the footfall of so many men stirred up a cloud of dust that rose no higher than their knees. David can see Jericho even from his position in the column as it sits on a hill. The nearer they get the bigger the city looks.
By the time David’s ranks reach Jericho he feels dwarfed by the walls. They are at least 8 ½ cubits high! “No way to see over those” David thinks to himself. He sees windows in the walls and remembers that Michael said that the prostitute Rahab actually lived in a home within the walls. Maybe he would see some of the people from the windows. But as he begins to pass along the side of the wall with his row of soldiers he notices that the windows are shuttered. “Oh well, it’s just as well” he thinks as he continues with the march.
David had noticed that the column turned in along the wall to begin their circle of the city so he keeps watch as they progress to gage how much further until they turn towards camp. The city is HUGE! Not just the height of the walls but the distance it takes for Israel to encircle it. The column of Israeli soldiers are in no hurry as they move along but neither are they dawdling. They are simply marching at a comfortable pace. By midday they have completed their path around the city. David didn’t hear any noise from within the city but their trumpets and their marching feet could possibly be covering it. Now it is time to head back to camp.
Once they arrive back at camp they begin to break up and return to their own tents. David and Jeremy are glad the silence is finally over. David has never been the silent type and it took great restraint not to point out things along the way to Jeremey.
That evening is spent cleaning their armor and sharpening their swords. It is still six days until they will need them but it never hurts to be prepared in advance. The two brothers eat while they work and share observations in between bites.
“Did you notice the grain in the fields? It is ready for harvest. If it’s not taken in soon it will spoil.”
“I agree Jeremey. The women have been reaping from the edges but Joshua hasn’t agreed to give us harvesting rights as we are not the victors yet. It’s a good thing there are wild fields where we can reap until this battle is over.”
“Six more days brother. Then it’s all ours!”
“What did you think of the city David?”
“It’s HUGE! I would hate to have to try and scale those walls. Soldiers would be on you before you got halfway to the top.”
“I agree. Did you see the size of the gates?”
“Who could miss them! Their frame was visible from the entire front of the city. I was using it to mark our progress. I would hate to have to try and breach them!”
“It’s a good thing that we don’t have to do either of those. Joshua said the Lord would take care of it for us.”
“I’m glad because I don’t see any way WE could succeed without Him.”
“I think that is His point all along.”
“Probably so brother. Probably so.”
After clearing away their supper the brothers are ready for bed. Tomorrow is another long march.
Day two dawns and the company hurriedly eats and begins assembling for their second day of marching around the city. Excitement is in its infancy stages right now as the men realize they have many more days before this campaign really gets interesting.
Today passes in much the same way as the day before. David still hasn’t seen any of the inhabitants or heard noises coming from behind the walls. “Maybe the walls are too thick for sound to travel” he surmises. He keeps alert for any danger as they progress but all is quiet and by early afternoon they are returning to camp again.
That evening in camp brings the same chores as the previous one. Not much has changed in Israel’s camp but David can’t help wondering what is going on inside the city. “I don’t hear anything from the city as we pass by” he says to Jeremey.
“I don’t either. It could be that we are making too much noise with the trumpets to hear anything.”
“Could be but I don’t know. It just seems too quiet. I wonder what they are up to.”
“I bet they are wondering what WE are up to too” Jeremey says with a smile.
“I know I would be if I were in their place!”
The third morning dawns and Israel heads out again for her pass around the city. The men are getting faster at assembling as they have done this repeatedly now. They seem to have established a good rhythm for the whole process. David has even picked out landmarks that let him know about how far they are in their marches.
Today as they march along David catches sight of something flying in the breeze from one of the windows on the wall. It looks like a scarf. It is bright red in color and flapping lightly as the wind tosses it. He they get nearer he looks up and sees a woman standing at the window. She appears to be watching them. He wonders who she might be. He returns his attention to his marching and straightens up with the others in his line.
The men disperse as they return to camp and conversation once again fills the air. David has gotten used to staying quiet while they are in formation. He is a good soldier and will maintain silence as Joshua commanded. But now he can ask Jeremey about the woman at the window.
“Did you notice the woman at the window as we passed by” asks David
“Which window? There are so many.”
“I’m not sure how to locate it for you but it is on the front wall and had a scarf hanging out it. There was a woman watching us from it.”
“You mean the window with the red fabric tied to it?”
“Yes that’s the one. Did you see her?”
“I didn’t see her but I have noticed the fabric. I think it is the home of the prostitute that hid Michael and his partner when they went in to spy out the city. I heard him say that she was supposed to hang a red cord from the window so we would know where she was and could bring her to safety.”
“That makes sense. She certainly had her eyes on us today. I wonder what she thinks of all of this. I doubt she knows our ‘battle plan’ as we only found out about it four days ago.”
“That’s a good question brother. After this is all over we may find the answer to your question.”
After dinner and more sword sharpening David and Jeremey turn in for the night. Another day of marching lies ahead. David, ever the adventurer hopes that tomorrow will bring something different. He is committed to the Lord’s plan but doing the same thing and seeing the same things every day is getting a little old.
The fourth morning dawns and Israel readies for another day’s march. The men know that this is the halfway point in their campaign. Today and two more days of single circle marches and then the final day of conquest will be upon them. Anticipation is beginning to build as that day approaches.
For something different to do today David has decided to count paces between his landmarks. David is occupied with silently counting as they approach the city. He notices something different about the walls while they are still fairly far away. By the time they reach the city David realizes that there are men standing on the walls. “Well this is different” he thinks to himself. He glances up every now and then and sees that the whole city is ringed with men standing on the walls. He can’t help wondering what they are doing and what they think about what Israel is doing. “Another question to bring to Jeremey tonight.”
Once again Israel is back to their camp by midafternoon. Once again David is full of questions and observations. David holds his questions until all their normal daily tasks are completed and they gather for dinner and the now daily sword care.
“Did you notice the men standing on top of the wall?”
“How could I not. I was waiting for them to do something.”
“Me too. I wonder what they think of us and what we are doing.”
“It probably confuses them. I know if I didn’t know what was going on I would be confused too.”
“It’s a good thing Joshua shared the Lord’s plan with us. I would hate to think how frustrated we would be with this daily marching if we didn’t know why and when it would all end.”
“The Lord doesn’t always share His plan with us but I’m glad He did this time. And I’m glad Joshua trusts us enough to share it with us.”
“I think he probably thought it would be harder on us to follow him this way if he didn’t. I LOVE knowing that the Lord is SO CLOSE to acting on our behalf. We just have to be faithful in the meantime.”
“After crossing the Jordan I don’t think my faith could be any stronger in Him!”
“Mine too Jeremey. Mine too!”
Day five starts the same for the men of Israel. “Two more days, two more days” keeps repeating in David’s mind as they march towards Jericho. You can feel the excitement in the air as they march. But something else is in the air today as they approach the city. For the first time they hear voices.
There are more men on the wall than the previous day. Hundreds of them line the wall and are talking with one another. Voices can also be heard through the city walls. Most of the windows are still shuttered and the gate is closed but the city sounds like a city for the first time since this all began. David wonders what this means. “Are the people getting braver? Are they used to us now and think this is normal? Won’t they be surprised!”
Another midafternoon marks the men’s return to camp. Day five has been completed. One more day lies ahead before the final day of reckoning. David asks Jeremy for his thoughts on the day.
“I was surprised to see so many people on the wall. It’s almost like they think we are some kind of spectacle to watch.”
“I was thinking the same thing. I’m curious to see how they behave tomorrow.”
“No matter how they behave, we are safe in the Lord’s protection. He has promised us the city and all that are within it will come to an end.”
“Don’t forget Rahab the prostitute Jeremey. She will be saved because she trust in our God.”
“We trust in our God and will be saved too!”
“Yes brother. I know.”
Day six dawns and the men hurry into formation. This is the last day of the single march. There is excitement and wonder running throughout the formation as they make their way silently to Jericho. David and Jeremey aren’t the only ones who noticed the increasing number of men on the wall the last two days. Speculation about their intent is high today.
As the column approaches Jericho angry voices can be heard. It’s hard to hear above the trumpets for those who are in close proximity but the words can clearly be heard by those farther from the priests.
“What’s the matter?”
“Can’t find a way in?”
“Waiting on an invitation? Not going to happen!”
“Why don’t you just move on and go somewhere else!”
These are just some of the shouts that are being hurtled at the Israelites marching by. David started to look up but Jeremey quickly reached out and touched his arm and shook his head. Jeremey didn’t want to give the men any encouragement. David finally has an answer to some of his questions. He wanted to know what they were thinking about Israel. Here is his answer. They don’t sound frightened at all. They sound proud and arrogant. “You will be singing a new tune tomorrow” he thinks.
This afternoon upon returning to camp all the men put the finishing touches on their armor and swords. They also retire early because tomorrow will be a MUCH longer day and they need to start out earlier in order to accomplish all the Lord has called them to do.
“Are you ready for tomorrow” David asks across the darkened tent.
“Yes. Are you?”
“I’m ready for this to be over but I still wonder how the Lord is going to get us into that city.”
“Have faith brother. It will happen.”
“I KNOW it will. Just thinking out loud again.”
“You can ‘think’ all you want. Only make sure to keep doing as you are told and trust in the Lord.”
“Want to practice your shouting voice for tomorrow” David asks.
“Better not. You will wake up the whole camp. I already know YOU have a LOUD voice!”
“So right brother. Good night.”
Day seven, before light even brightens the sky, the men begin to assemble. They want to be on the way to Jericho with the first rays of the sun. This is the day that the Lord will fulfill His promise. Excitement is high among the ranks as they square off with one another to straighten up their formation.
David is too excited to count steps. “That was getting old anyway” he thinks to himself. He knows they are in for a LONG day today. Not only are they going to circle the city seven times but they also have to fight the battle afterwards. David calms himself down so he can conserve some of his strength for what will be required later on.
As Israel approaches the city today they see the crowd on the wall hasn’t thinned but grown. There are small pockets of children interspersed with the men. The shouting from above begins to rain down on them before they even make their first turn along the wall. Today also brings rocks from above but somehow no one is struck. “Either they are HORRIBLE shots or the Lord is protecting us yet again” David realizes.
The insults and rocks begin to dwindle as the number of times Israel encircles the city rises. By the third time David passes the city gates the men on the wall have thinned out and the children are gone. No more insults and no more rocks fly from the top of the wall. “Good. Maybe they are beginning to understand that we are not going away” thinks David.
The marching has gone on for hours. The steps of the column haven’t faltered at all. There is not a single sing of fatigue among the men. Anticipation and excitement are the only signs coming from the men but they are all trained to wait until released. They are like a coiled spring waiting to be let lose.
High above Israel’s heads the anticipation is also evident. No insults are hurled but pleas instead rain down. Shouts of “Enough!” and “What do you want?!” are heard instead. “Just leave us alone” is another cry coming from the men left on the wall.
The seventh lap is complete! The trumpets halt for a moment then one long note is heard. Joshua raises his voice and calls for the men to shout. His command sounded like it came from right in front of each man. NO ONE missed this command. And shout they did! Six days of silence wrapped into one enormous battle cry!
Right before the eyes of the Israelites army the walls fall. They don’t fall in toward the city. They don’t fall out toward the soldiers. The crumple and disintegrate! All that was left of the over 8 ½ cubit wall was sand. It crumpled as completely as if it had never been there in the first place. Even the furnishings that were surely in the homes contained in the walls disintegrated.
Every man drew his sword and rushed over the top of the heaps of sand that stood at the edge of the city. The men who had been on top of the walls when they fell lay in crumpled forms from such a high fall. David and Jeremey rushed into battle from right where they stood moments before. No need to look for an entrance now. God had given them an ‘engraved invitation’ into the city!
The inhabitants of the city fell like cordwood at the feet of the soldiers. No one escaped. Not cattle nor donkey nor man, woman or child. ALL were slain as Israel’s four hundred eighty thousand troops converged on the center of the city.
The only ones who left that city alive, besides all of Israel’s troops were Rahab the prostitute and the family who were with her. Michael saw to their care while David and Jeremey and the rest of the army destroyed the city.
Once there were no survivors left in the city Joshua earlier orders were carried out. He had given orders to the men to carefully search and retrieve any gold, silver, and bronze or iron vessels. These were to be put into the Lord’s treasury when they returned back to camp. Once the search was over the order was given to burn the city to the ground. David and Jeremey were just a few of those carrying items to piles that would be set on fire.
By late evening the whole of Jericho was in flames or already charred. The men were ready to begin their march back to camp. They were tired, dirty, covered in blood, and praising God as they resumed their ranks. Joshua stood before them on the heap that once was part of the wall and spoke an oath over the city. “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundations, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set its gates” (verse 26).
With that the men marched back to camp; home. David noticed the small encampment of people near the edge of the camp. “That must be Rahab and her family” he whispered to Jeremey.
“Probably so brother. Probably so.”
“I have so many questions I want to ask them but right now all I want is a bath, a good meal, and sleep.”
“What do you know! For once your curiosity doesn’t drive you forward. Tomorrow is soon enough to stir that mind of yours back into action.”
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Father God, I enjoyed asking questions for David. They are questions I would have wanted to ask. Thank You for letting me pose them.
Something I didn’t pose for David and Jeremey is the conflict they might have felt over taking so many lives. Did they struggle with killing EVERY living thing in the city? I know this was Your directive but did it give them pause? I don’t know how I would have carried that out. Maybe that’s why I wouldn’t be a very good soldier. I am a better nurturer. I tend to look for the good in everyone. I’m SO GLAD I didn’t live in those days! The days before grace and mercy were purchased by Jesus. I have no idea how many people occupied the city that day but the only lives who received that mercy was Rahab’s family. She sought You out where none of the others did.
Reminds me of the story of Sodom where not even ten righteous men could be found. I wonder how many there will be left when Jesus finally returns. There will be wholesale slaughter again that day. The death of all those who will stand with Satan. Blood up to the hips of the horses carrying the saints. I can’t fathom that Father! But I will follow wherever You lead me, wherever I may stand on that day. I’ll be on Your side wherever I fall within the ranks; this side of Heaven or the other. I will trust YOU to work all things out to Your glory. I trust Your promises!