BIBLE STUDY SERIES #563, 564 and 565

8 September, 2002

JOSHUA 6:1- 27 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached the beginning of Joshua 6. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 6 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho.

The main points covered in the previous chapter, Joshua 5, were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they should now halt, having entered their Promised Land, to circumcise all the children of Israel "the second time." This "second time" does not refer to individual persons, but to the nation. As entry had brought the people back into that covenant relationship which the former generation had failed to keep, they now were required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. On our last Study, we read, with some notes, the whole passage found in this sixth chapter, but we had to leave for today's study some comments which are contained in The New Bible Commentary, and in Keil and Delitzsch.

Keil and Delitzsch note that when Joshua had taken off his shoes, in the presence of this angelic figure, "the prince of the army of God made known to him the object of his coming (vers. 2-5). But before relating the message, the historian first of all inserts a remark concerning the town of Jericho, in the form of an explanatory clause, for the purpose of showing the precise meaning of the declaration which follows. This meaning is to be found not merely in the fact that the Lord was about to give Jericho into the hands of the Israelites, but chiefly in the fact that the town which He was about to give into their hands was so strongly fortified. - Ver. 1. 'Jericho was shutting its gates (vide.. Judg. ix. 51), and closely shut.' The participles express the permanence of the situation, and the combination of the active and passive in the emphatic form ... (here they quote what is written in Hebrew, Greek and Latin in their reference) ... serves to strengthen the idea, to which still further emphasis is given by the clause, 'no one was going out and in,' i.e. so firmly shut that no one could go out or in."

Keil and Delitzsch further continue, noting at verse 2, "And the Lord said to Joshua:", that "this is the sequel to chap. v. 15, as ver. 1 is merely a parenthesis and Jehovah is the prince of the army of Jehovah (chap. v. 14), or the angel of Jehovah, who is frequently identified with Jehovah... ." Of the words "See, I have given into thy hand Jericho and its king, the mighty men of valour.", they note "('Have given,' referring to the purpose of God, which was already resolved upon, though the fulfilment was still in the future.) 'The mighty men of valour' (brave warriors) is in apposition to Jericho, regarded as a community, and its king. In vers. 3-5 there follows an explanation of the way in which the Lord would give Jericho into the hand of Joshua." Keil and Delitzsch follow those words with a review of the orders which we have already studied on our former Bible Study. As this set of orders is likewise reviewed by The New Bible Commentary notes which we will now read, the repetition of the words concerned would be redundant, and we can now move directly to that second source of commentary for our further thoughts.

The New Bible Commentary links its comments on Joshua 5, 6, 7 and 8 together under one heading using sub-divisions of which that on our present chapter 6:1-27, reads as follows. "Jericho, though a comparatively small city by modern standards, was very strongly fortified, and was an essential objective for the Israelites if they were to advance into Palestine. The city was closely shut up against attack, none went out, and none came in (1). But the angel of Jehovah had given explicit instructions for its capture, and these were carried out to the letter. Seven priests, bearing seven trumpets, and followed by the ark of the covenant, marched in solemn procession around the city for seven days, preceded and followed by the silent army. Each night they returned to the camp at Gilgal. On the seventh day the city was compassed seven times, and then, amid the blast of the trumpets and the great shout of the people, the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him (20).

The whole proceeding was designed to test Israel's faith in the supernatural resources which were theirs. Trumpets of rams' horns (4, 6). Better, as in RV mg., 'jubile trumpets'. The Heb. word yobbel is found outside the references to the year of jubile (see Lv. xxv. 8ff.n.) only here and in Ex. xix. 13, where there is a similar religious significance. This suggests that the trumpets carried by the priests had a ceremonial rather than a martial reference. This was a religious, not a military undertaking.

Excavations have given evidence of the collapse of the wall, and of the destruction of the city by fire. But even if a secondary cause of the event, such as an earthquake, could be given, it cannot explain its miraculous occurrence just at this critical moment of Israel's advance. 'By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days' (Heb. xi. 30)."

I might just insert here one or two comments of my own at this point. First, we are well aware that subsequent studies by some archaeologists have brought into question both the timing of the Exodus and the nature of the disaster which befell Jericho as found in the Biblical account. However, faith has a part in the story, and as archaeologists have not definitely resolved a single position in this regard, we are content to reside our trust in the Biblical account for sundry reasons which we don't have time to consider today.

Second, we can see that if an earthquake was the cause of a landslip which temporarily had blocked the Jordan River water for the requisite hours of passage across that watercourse by the Israelites, like those blockages which have likewise been recorded at other times in history, then the expected after-shocks would quite likely develop at the moment when required by divine timing, to shake down the walls of Jericho. This would occur as a consequence of transfer of geological "zipper-effect" pressures along the faultlines down the Jordan Valley, which forms an extension of the rift-valley complex in the region. It marks fracture lines where a north-easterly motion of the Arabian block relative to the African block presents a continuing tectonic tension in the zone. We again pick up the notes from The New Bible Commentary.

"The city, its inhabitants and all that it contained were treated as accursed (17) or 'devoted' (Heb. herem). See notes on Lv. xxvii. 28 and Dt. ii. 34. Accursed thing (18) and utterly destroyed (21) are translations of the same word. In view of this a stern warning was given against taking any spoil for personal use. Everything was 'devoted' to Jehovah: the inhabitants were slain, with the exception of Rahab and those in her house; the city was destroyed by fire, as was everything in it except the silver and gold and vessels of brass and iron which were consecrated unto the Lord (19). Rahab and all her kindred were without the camp of Israel (23) because they were Gentiles and ceremonially unclean. Verse 25 indicates that they were ultimately fully identified with the people of Israel.

The putting of Jericho to the ban included the pronouncing of a curse on anyone who should afterwards rebuild it as a fortified city. In the time of Ahab, 500 years later, this anathema was disregarded by Hiel the Bethelite at the cost of the lives of his two sons (I Ki. xvi. 34). Garstang's excavations show that the city was rebuilt at this time. But a more immediate violation of the ban had much more disastrous consequences, when the Israelites went up against Ai."

The last statement brings us to a topic we shall reserve for the next Bible study.

15 September, 2002

JOSHUA 6:1 - 7:1 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART IV

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached Joshua 6. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapters 6 and 7 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho.

The main points covered in the previous chapter, Joshua 5, were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they should now halt, having entered their Promised Land, to circumcise all the children of Israel "the second time." This "second time" does not refer to individual persons, but to the nation. As entry had brought the people back into that covenant relationship which the former generation had failed to keep, they now were required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. On our last Studies, we read, with some notes, the whole passage found in this sixth chapter, but we had to leave for today's study some further considerations which may tend to draw us closer to the scene which the Biblical description places before us.

Did you ever wonder why it was that Abraham's descendants through Isaac and Jacob were not permitted to continue in that Land of Promise as its inhabitants and eventual owners from the time of Abraham onwards, but on the contrary, were to leave it and stay away in another land for four-hundred years, before they were allowed to invade and conquer the territory once more? As the LORD described the circumstances in Abraham's lifetime, in Genesis 28:4, Abraham was yet simply a resident in "the land wherein thou art a stranger."

Let us review again the condition upon which the Promised Land was to be passed into the hands of the descendants of Abram. In Genesis 15:1-21, we find the passage of Scripture in which the LORD gives to Abram a magnificent promise that, of his own loins, Abram will have an heir, whose descendants will inherit the land, in which Abram was then living and which was thus called "The Promised Land." Indeed, mention is made towards the end of the passage in Genesis 15, of lands extending from the river of Egypt to "the great river, the river Euphrates." The passage ends by listing the inhabitants of those lands who will eventually be displaced. These are listed as "19. The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20. And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21. And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites."

By the way, lest some may think that this ascribes ownership of such lands totally to "The Jews", we must remember that Abraham had eight sons, the eldest of whom was Ishmael, from whom the Arab peoples claim their descent. Six sons he had by Keturah were also numerous, and he sent them away eastward, lest they conflict with the descendants of Isaac, and Isaac, in turn, fathered both Esau and Jacob. Jacob, in turn fathered twelve sons, only one of whom was called Judah, and most of Judah were never called "Jews", a term which Josephus states was the name taken by the remnant of a remnant of a remnant that returned from the Babylonian Captivity. That in turn happened long years after Northern Israel and most of the Southern House of Judah had been dragged off by the more northerly Assyrians towards the Caspian Sea area. Things may seem more complicated still if we then connect those of the Assyrian deportations with the present-day Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples of the world in our own time, as our Federation evidences and continually asserts.

Now an interesting aspect of this promise to Abraham is that one of those groups of people, namely the Amorites, had not, at the time of Abraham's life, become sufficiently evil as to permit of such a take-over of those lands. It was to occur some four hundred years later for, as we read in Genesis 15, verse 16, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." God is a just LORD, and while there remained those Amorites, whose iniquity was "not yet full", in the lands mentioned, they were, it appears, standing in a somewhat similar position to the numbers of righteous for which Abraham, in Genesis 18:20-33, asked The LORD to spare the city of Sodom. In that instance, ten would have served the purpose, yet at that occasion, ten were not found, so Lot and his daughters alone eventually escaped destruction. But the principle is there stated in the pleading of Abraham before the LORD, which began thus: "23. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25 That be far from thee to do after that manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26. And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

However, just as, in Sodom, there were not a sufficient number of righteous to avert the destruction, God knew that Abram's children would have to be excluded from that inheritance of The Promised Land for four hundred years, until the iniquity of the Amorites was full, thus lifting the protective shield from, not only themselves, but from all those other peoples mentioned as then living in that land described above, and whose religious cultures were in general considered totally depraved in the context of Our LORD's assessment. We ought to keep those principles which we have reviewed today clearly in view as we assess, not only the order of The LORD to encompass the city of Jericho while He brought about its destruction, but also, the effect that the activities of one man and his family in Israel had on the whole course of their invasion of that Promised Land into which Israel had now entered.

Down through history, there have been countless wars and assaults upon cities, towns, fortified places and troop concentrations, many of which could have passed into oblivion but for some outstanding actions by a few people or by a single individual.

We can think of Gideon and the three hundred who were called of The LORD to present a challenge to an enemy force which resulted in panic among the enemy, and an utter rout of their forces. Think of all of those others who were called as Judges in Israel, to free them from a succession of oppressors.

We might call to mind the actions of David when he confronted and defeated Goliath, to the saving of Israel in his younger years. That action came about after a significant period of forty days, which is a number associated with a period of trial or testing, as numerous Scripture references can testify.

We could enlist the roster of all those who have won their nation's highest order through valour in strife, and of these, many died before such recognition descended upon their name. Probably equal to these have been others who, but for the deaths of those who might have reported their acts of valour, would also have had their names entered upon those lists of the "glorious dead".

The word we might apply is "courage", for it is very lonely to be resolved in one's own mind how one must act, while evaluating the dread possibilities which confront one at the moment when action is required.

These thoughts will set the stage and have a bearing upon what happens at the beginning of the next chapter, but first, we must consider how Joshua 6 ends. Verse 27 of that chapter reads, "So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was noised throughout all the country." That seems to yield every reason for the expectation of a victorious continuance to the campaign. However a dreadful lesson was in store for the tribes of Israel. We shall, today, only have time to read a short passage from Joshua 7:1, which follows immediately upon that verse. It simply states:

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

To put the matter clearly, we might simply state that "there was sin in the camp of Israel", but its contents may give us some material on which to meditate during the coming week. There is always jeopardy to the good folk of the nation when evil people in their midst cause God's protection to be withdrawn.

22 September, 2002

JOSHUA 6:27 - 7:11 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART V

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached Joshua 6. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapters 6 and 7 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho.

The main points covered in the previous chapter, Joshua 5, were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they now were required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Following direct divine orders by circling Jericho the walls had fallen and the city was taken, a story which has come down through all the centuries since that time in Biblical accounts and in a song that has become familiar in many a Bible Camp and Sunday School.

We were, at the end of our last Study, considering how important for all Israel the protective shield of the LORD their God was over them, and how unprepared the people were for a sudden shocking reverse to their progress, which came about as the result of the sin of one man and his family who did not obey the strict injunction of The LORD.

Sometimes in the history of God's people, evil has gained the ascendant in the nation, and at such times there have been in the past, and may yet be, good people who suffer because they do not participate in breaking God's Laws. Such times may call forth the greatest firmness of character, which bolstered persons to stand in the torment of religious persecution till death as a martyr eventually claims them. Countless people down the centuries have given their lives in order to convey the testimony of their faith in the promises of Jesus Christ, as a gift to posterity, whom they will not meet till their Resurrection. The pre-condition which permits such individuals to stand up and be counted is that they stand as righteous in the sight of God, relative to their enemies.

Those who are doers of evil, however are often a cause of death to God's saints, either directly or indirectly. There are many pathways by which this can happen. We can think of a direct and savage attack in which physical violence by the sinful takes the life of some of the innocent among the people. There are also the means whereby people, through carelessness or negligence, have allowed death to overtake some who had counted on a higher standard of conduct from them. Then there are the liars who induce angry words or deeds between others, each of whom may feel that the other party has wronged them. Two innocent parties can thus be brought to blows, and deaths may well result when lies are circulated and believed by the trusting ears of those who hear them. Then there are crimes which are against the Law of God, and for which a country-wide penalty is exacted. Such crime may be the result of bad leadership by leaders who have by some means acquired power. The whole nation may have to bear some responsibility together, for possibly everyone living in the nation has had some part in the course of events which brought the situation to eventuate.

There is, of course, more than one Biblical example which could be cited, but the example of King David's decision to number the people, against the advice of Joab, in II Samuel 24:1-25 will serve us well, as it ended with a most important act of contrition. David had ordered the numbering of the people, but not ordered the collection of the required ransom of half a shekel from every man so numbered, as ransom for his soul to The LORD, stipulated in Exodus 30:12. The penalty selected, one of three offered, was that which took the lives of seventy thousand men by a pestilence directed by an angel. This spreading pestilence was stayed when the angel was by the threshingplace of Araunah, which David purchased, and where he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. That floor is now the site of Temple Mount in Jerusalem. David had given the order, and many men died as a result of his oversight or negligence. The result was a burnt offering in a significant location.

Today, we are reading from Joshua 7:1-11, the account of the sin of one man's family, by which a number of other families were deprived of loved ones and friends. Let us recall first how chapter 6 ended with verse 27 which stated: "So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country." Now let us move to the next chapter, verses 1-11:

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
2. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
3. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.
4. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai.
5. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.
6. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
7. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!
8. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
9. For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?
10. And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
11. Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

Well, there we have it. There had been a serious breach of God's Law, and the results are seen before all the people. Some of their innocent warriors have died, and it is all because of the withdrawal of the shield of the LORD, due to the breaking of one of His strictest commands. The LORD had stated back in chapter 6:17-19:

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.
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.
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.

"Accursed" in these verses means "devoted" to The LORD. All such belonged to Him, for the victory was entirely under His power and authority.

In this earlier example, it was not the national leader who had sinned, but apparently just one family head, who had gone up to the city of Jericho when the walls collapsed, just as every other soldier had done, prepared for battle, but who had made a fateful decision at some point as the slaughter was going on, and fires were springing up on all sides. Perhaps it might have seemed to him that in the apparent confusion of battle, the screams, the smoke and flames, something which had been most strictly forbidden to all those taking part became of less importance than the chance to secretly put aside something which would secure the future prosperity of himself and his immediate family. He reached down and took some of those things which had been strictly forbidden. Later, we read the descriptions of at least two such articles, which were to cost the lives of others of his fellow soldiers, and, eventually, those of himself and his loved ones, for whom he might have been moved to touch something accursed at that fateful moment in the midst of the carnage when others were not watching what he did. But The LORD of all the earth saw it, and that made all the difference. We shall consider the rest of this passage on our next Bible Study.

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