A foolish war strategy? Joshua’s capture of Jericho

Jericho was a military fortress, a strongly fortified city built to defend the eastern approach to Canaan, the Promised Land. After crossing river Jordan, Jericho presented the biggest huddle for the Israelites in their mission to conquer Canaan.

The story of the capture and destruction of the city of Jericho as narrated in Joshua Chapter 6 makes for an interesting read and, probably, the city goes down in the history of mankind as the only one that was conquered using the most irrational military strategy.

Military Strategy

According to Joshua Chapter 6, the Israelites were commanded by God to march round the city walls once every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. It was a rather outlandish march seeing that a section of the instructions read “‘do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.” Joshua 6:10

After marching round the city for the seventh time on the seventh day, “When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Now if that is not a militarily irrational, illogical strategy, tell me what is! It is said that in ancient warfare, such cities could only be taken by assault or by surrounding the city and starving the people to submission. Such missions usually occasioned heavy losses for the attacking forces.

And here we have Joshua commanding a silent army and a horde of Israelites armed with the ark and trumpets.

Baffling story

This story triggers a few question in my mind. Why did they have to march silently? And how were they to do that, anyway? Several hundred thousands of people to march around the city without uttering a word? What went through in the minds of Israelites as the marched for two, three, four days without any results? Knowing that they had previously been impatient with God and had flatly disobeyed him, did they consider giving up on the 5th or 6th day? And for the war strategy, did they consider it ridiculous? Foolish even? Did the military advisors raise any objections to the strategy?

But the most interesting part of this story is seeing how resolute Joshua was. By human standards, the instructions given to him by God were obviously strange and, though it seemed foolish, Joshua followed them faithfully. And it is easy to see why.

Joshua had learnt early in life to trust in the immutable God of Israel. Having been Moses’ disciple since the day they left Egypt, Joshua always remained on the Lord’s side even when all of Israel went against God. He was always ready to serve the living God.

He had witnessed all the wonders the Lord had done during the forty years in the wilderness. And when Moses was about to die, he handed over the leadership mantle to Joshua saying “‘be strong and courageous…the Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deut 31:7-8

Further, God had already promised Joshua that “I have delivered Jericho into your hands” Joshua 6:2.

What challenges does this story throw to us?

We all have our little jerichos, obstacles which obstruct us from possessing the canaans which God has promised us in His Holy Word. These jerichos hinder us from attaining our full potential in life and from fully enjoying our possessions in Christ Jesus.

They may take different forms such as a weakness in character, materialism, challenges in our relationships, physical illnesses, difficulties in places of work or marriages, financial burdens and many others.

How do we face such jerichos in our lives? The account of the fall of the walls of Jericho reminds us that though we have human responsibilities, strategies and power to destroy any strangleholds, victory can only be assured by two parameters; God’s power and our faith and faithfulness to his directions and plans. It is a lesson on man’s improbability and God’s ability.

The normal human behavior to desire instant remedies to all the difficulties of life may sometime run counter to God’s will in our lives. We want to trust in our bank balances, our health, reputation, talent, education, abilities and so on instead of trusting in the Lord alone. The Israelites went round the city on the first day and nothing happened. Second day, third day, fourth day…same result! The same ritual was repeated six times on the seventh day with similar results. But on completion of the seventh round on day seven, all that was needed for the walls to collapse was the sound of the trumpets combined with a loud shout from the men.

So how many times have you sat for that exam and failed, walked into that hospital and the pain persists, sat for job interviews and are yet to be hired? For how long have you prayed for your family, spouse or children, attended counselling session and the challenges are yet to be overcome? For how long have you suffered the pain of childlessness? The message today is that at an opportune moment, the sounds of the trumpets and the loud shout from the army shall be hand and the walls of your jericho shall come tumbling down.

This reminds me of the song “Four days late”, where in reference to Jesus’ act of raising of Lazarus from the dead, the song goes ”but His way is God’s way Not yours or mine When He’s four days late He’s still on time

We are called to approach our jerichos with the same attitude that the Israeli had; if we want to overcome our obstacles, we must submit to God’s way by faith. God knows what is best for us and we should patiently wait upon him at all times. The lesson here is that whatever the circumstances of life, our prayer should be that God’s will be done and that He may give us the strength, will and discipline to patiently wait for Him.

Joshua’s Jericho story also reminds us that faith without action is dead and obedience is the clearest evidence of faith. Joshua and the Israelites had to religiously obey, and without grumbling, all the instructions which God had given them on how and when to capture Jericho. God had the power to destroy the city right on day one while the Israelites watched.

But he made them go round the city thirteen times. The walls fell and the Israelites had easy victory because God said they would not because of their efforts. We are equally called to participate in the destruction of our jerichos.

Its only through obedience that our faith is put to work. It is not enough for us to say “I believe” and then sit down and wait for miracles to happen. God has the ability to make us pass exams or miraculously heal our many infirmities. He does it every day. But sometimes we have to study the voluminous course text, take those bitter drugs or withstand some other inconveniences for us to achieve the solutions we seek in life.

And why did the Israelites have to march while silent? Difficult to decipher but a guess may do for us for now.

Can the demand to observe silence while matching round Jericho be interpreted to signify the importance to keep quiet, calm down, stop all this running up and down seeking earthly solutions and to just take some rest as we reflect on God in the midst of our trials and temptations in life? Could it be a reminder for us to stop our tendencies of spending more time complaining and seeking consolation from people than we spend talking to God and seeking comfort from him?

 

 

 

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