Joshua 7:1-9 – Yahweh’s Conquest Favor Removed

Joshua 6 ends with a wonderfully optimistic tone.
  • Joshua 6:27 (ESV) — 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
  • No doubt this is a reflection on and implication of the unorthodox defeat of Jericho that preceded it.
  • How so?

Yahweh through the presence of the Ark and the Divine Warrior took the lead in victory.
  • Why?
  • One reason is because of Joshua’s own covenant faithfulness up to this point.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
  • As we discussed at that time, the conditional formula for a successful Conquest was simply –  Obedience = Success.

So things are looking good.
  • However, this all changes with a “but”.

Our Text:
Joshua 7:1 (ESV) — 1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

This “but”, pivotal to the coming battle, is something that Joshua does not yet know.
  • Unbeknownst to Joshua, at some point between Jericho and 7:1, Yahweh removed His “Conquest Favor” from the nation of Israel.

How do we know this?
  • There are at least two reasons.

1) The first reason is obvious and found in verse 4 and 5 – Israel loses the first battle of Ai.

2) The second reason is found in verse 1.
  • The text makes clear that Achan acted in disobedience to God.
  • He broke the covenant with God.
  • One would think, then, that Achan would be an isolated problem for God to deal with.
  • However, look carefully at the text.
  • By God’s reckoning, “Israel broke faith”.
  • And God’s reaction to this is that – “the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel”.
  • Not just against Achan, but against Israel!

Anger of the Lord:
Being the object of the anger of the Lord is not something one wants to be.
  • In virtually every case where Israel was the object of this anger, two things were sure to come.
    • God’s wrath
    • God’s judgment

Some other Biblical examples make this clear.
  • Judges 2:14 (ESV) — 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
  • Psalm 106:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. 
  • Isaiah 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

We need to dig much deeper into why an individual’s sin would bring God’s judgment and wrath upon Israel.
  • And in my next lesson we will do so.
  • Now, I want to deal with the rest of our text.

Our Text:
Joshua 7:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

This scene takes place in ignorance of Achan’s actions and Israel’s guilt.
  • Joshua and the spies do not yet know that Yahweh’s anger burns against Israel.
  • We learn later that what Achan did, he did in secret.
  • He hid the treasure.

Joshua’s ignorance of God’s anger raises a question about Joshua’s actions.
  • Do these verses show that Joshua went ahead of the Lord?
  • Surely, God would have wanted Joshua to not assault Ai given these circumstances?
  • Maybe…

Two of the most well known commentators on Joshua – Hess, Howard – answer this question in the affirmative.
  • They think Joshua went ahead of the Lord.
  • David Howard says that in this first battle of Ai, “God was not part of the equation at all”.
  • Richard Hess says that this text shows Israel “lacked faith” and put too much stock in its own power.
  • Essentially, they suggest that Joshua’s problem was lack of prayer and overconfidence.

They rule out that God might have withheld the info in verse 1 on purpose.
  • However, Woudstra, Dale Davis and James Boice have a different take.

Woudstra puts it like this:
  • “Possibly Joshua himself should have consulted the divine will more explicitly, but the account does not say” – Woudstra.
  • In other words, we don’t know if he did or not.
  • What the text does says is that, “Joshua’s first serious attempt to master the country which the Lord said had been give to Israel is doomed to fail…by God’s righteous anger, caused by the people’s concrete sin. God’s promise was based on covenant obedience, and this obedience had been withheld” – Woudstra.

Dale puts it as follows:
  • “While the peril of overconfidence and the neglect of prayer are very preachable, they cannot be preached with authority from this text. The text says that God’s people failed because they were under God’s wrath” – Dale Davis.

So, Israel was defeated at Ai not because of Joshua’s getting ahead of God or his flawed military strategy, but because of God’s anger and its concomitant judgment and wrath.
  • Because of sin God removed His “Conquest Favor” from Israel and they lost.

This fact forces us to take a hard look at a very important point.
  • The right focus of the text is the seriousness of man’s sin and the extent of God’s wrath that this sin incurs, not Joshua’s going ahead of God.
  • This is incredibly important to grasp.
  • Israel was unfaithful and God judged them.
  • And profoundly, His judgment was an act of covenant faithfulness on His part.
  • Why?

James Boice quotes Francis Schaeffer at length to make this point.
This simple yet profound process explains all the rest of the Old Testament. It explains the period of the judges, the period of kings, the captivities under Assyria and Babylon, the Jews’ return from Babylon and the Jews’ dispersion in a.d. 70 under Titus. It explains Romans 9–11, which speaks of the Jews turning away from God and yet at the future day coming back to God and once more, as a nation, being the people of God. First comes blessing, then sin enters, then comes judgment. If the people of God return to him after the judgment, the blessing begins again and flows on.This process is as much a universal as any continuity we have studied so far. [Here comes the answer to our why question] It is the principle of God’s judgment of his people. It is unchanging throughout Scripture because God really is there. God is a holy God, God loves his people, and God deals with his people consistently.

Apologetic Insight:
The defeat at Ai and the revelation that God, in anger, foiled the efforts of his chosen leader and people are quite different from other ANE war literature.

John Walton puts it this way:
For Israel’s neighbors, “The intention of the preserved records is not to serve the reader, but to serve the king. The recorder is trying to provide answers to the question: “Why should you consider this king to be a good and successful king?” In most cases it cannot be determined whether concealment and/ or disinformation are part of the strategy, but negative information is uniformly lacking. We do receive negative assessments of some kings, but, as we might expect, they come from later dynasties seeking to enhance their own reputations. Royal inscriptions are therefore working from a predetermined outcome: that the gods favor the king. Therefore all events are presented in a way that will support that predetermined outcome” – John Walton.

Remember, Joshua 6 ended by saying “the Lord was with Joshua”.
  • Joshua 7 sure has a funny way of showing this.
  • What does this tell us about the OT as literature?

The Text:
Joshua 7:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

Joshua is still unaware of the sin of Achan.
  • And, btw, there is no hint here that he sees the defeat as symptomatic of his going ahead of God.
  • In fact, he demonstrates quite an opposite grasp of the situation.
  • He recognizes that God’s will was just done.
  • why have you…to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?
  • In part, the answer is yes.
  • He just doesn’t know why, yet.

In fact, Joshua goes on to rightly extol the “great name” of the Lord.
  • He asks God, if it would not have been better for Israel to have stayed across the Jordan.
  • The fact that Israel was defeated and “turned their backs before the enemies” will embolden the Canaanites.
  • And “turned” here is a vivid expression of being shamed (Howard).
  • He fears that they will be overrun and that they will “cut off our name from the earth”.
    • An allusion to being “cut off” from covenant with God.
  • The end result being that God’s “great name” is offended.

There is debate about how this prayer reflects on Joshua.
  • Did he forget that God had already “given” them the Promised Land?
  • Did he forget that God asked him to “be strong and courageous”?
  • Was his concern really more for himself?

Dales Davis takes the optimistic approach.
  • “These are words of despair, not unbelief. Joshua complains to God in prayer; complaining to God is not the same as complaining about God (Israel’s wilderness practice)…If Israel perishes it will reflect on Yahweh’s reputation.” – Dale Davis.

Richard Hess agrees:
  • Joshua’s concern for God’s “great name” “transforms the complaint from a self-serving whine, such as occurred in Numbers, to a concern for the honour of God”.

And to get a flavor for just how significant the name of God is, Jesus also spoke highly of it.
  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
  • John 17:11–12 (ESV) — 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

So what is the name that Joshua and Jesus were so in awe of?

Most commentators argue that Jesus is using “name” as a reference to God’s attributes.
  • “What Jesus reveals to them is God’s ‘name,’ which enshrines who God is in his character, his essential nature; because his name is glorious, God wants it to be made known” – Andreas Kostenberger.
  • “…Jesus revealed God’s ‘name,’ i.e., his nature, his character” – Beasley-Murray.
  • “The concept of God’s ‘name’ encompasses all that He is: His character, nature, and attributes” – John MacArthur.
  • “‘The name of God’ is a Semitic phrase for speaking about God’s attributes. To make the name known is to reveal the God who possesses those attributes” – James Boice.

And this leads us back to Achan’s sin.
  • The reason for the defeat that has put Joshua in this state of mourning and grief.
  • What are we to make of the fact that because of Achan’s sin all of Israel was guilty?
  • What are the implications of this principal?
  • I will cover this in my next lesson.


Joshua 6:15-27 – Destruction of Jericho

Last week the Divine Warrior laid out the battle strategy for Joshua.
  • A strategy that was anything but a typical battle strategy.
  • In our text today, the strategy is completed and comes to a successful conclusion.
  • I want to deal with three specific and repeated themes, not with the text in its entirety.


Joshua 6:16 (ESV) — 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.
Joshua 6:20 (ESV) — 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.

At the seventh encircling of Jericho, the soldiers were to finally break their silence and shout.
  • In this instance, the Israelites would “have been sounding a war cry”, or a battle cry – John Howard.
  • The purpose would have been to:
    • (1) Frighten and intimidate the enemy – John Howard & Woudstra.
    • (2) Praise God for the coming victory – John Howard.
    • (3) Unify, Inspire and Encourage each other – Woudstra.

In the ANE, “mustering for a holy war took place by means of a blast of the trumpet” – Gerhard von Rad.
  • Like the battle cry, sounding the trumpets would also have served to do the 3 aforementioned things.
  • The Israelites used the shophar – “a curved musical instrument made of the horn of a ram” – TWOT.
  • It was important not only in the military life of Israel, but was also used in a religious context such as “expressions of praise” – TWOT.
  • Psalm 98:6 (ESV) — 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!

In Guns of August, author Barbara Tuchman points out over and over the necessity of music in battle to unify, inspire and encourage.
  • “Cut off from the rest of the Belgian Army, the garrison troops and the 4th Division felt themselves deserted. Commandant Duruy, Lanrezac’s liaison officer at Namur, returned to Fifth Army headquarters to say he did not think the forts would hold out another day without some evidence of French help. ‘They must see the French troops marching along with colors unfurled and a band playing. There must be a band,’ he pleaded” – Barbara Tuchman.
  • “In dust, heat, and discouragement and fatigue beyond telling the British retreat continued. Trailing through St. Quentin, the tired remnants of two battalions gave up, piled up their arms in the railroad station, sat down in the Place de la Gare, and refused to go farther…Major Bridges wished desperately for a band to rouse the two hundred or three hundred dispirited men lying about in the square” – Barbara Tuchman.

Trumpet and Judgment:
It needs to be noted that in certain contexts the sound of the trumpet carried with it the idea of coming judgment.
  • No doubt, in our text, judgment was coming down on Jericho.
  • Something we discussed in our God-sanctioned war lesson.
  • But, importantly, as Paul tells us, there is coming one final blow of the trumpet that will carry with it eternal consequences.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV) — 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.


Joshua 6:19 (ESV) — 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”
Joshua 6:24 (ESV) — 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.

There is a parallel in Joshua 6 with the Gospel of John.
  • In John’s Gospel, he portrays one’s status with Christ in black or white terms.
  • One is either in the light or in darkness.
  • One remains under God’s wrath or doesn’t.
  • One is drawn or isn’t.
  • One has ears to hear or they don’t.
  • And so on…

In Joshua 6, all the inhabitants, animals and things are either “put into the treasury of the house of the Lord” or “devoted to destruction”.
  • Significantly, in either case the idea was that they were “given over” or “set apart” for the Lord – John Howard.
  • Before we tackle the significance of being “devoted to destruction” I want to first deal with “the treasury of the house of the Lord”.

In Joshua, the “house of the Lord” probably refers to the “tent of meeting in the tabernacle” – Michael Heiser.
  • At the time of the attack on Jericho, the tabernacle was probably located at Gilgal.
  • The treasure itself would be used for “carrying out the Lord’s service” in the tabernacle – Woudstra.
  • From Moses to David and beyond, we see example after example of treasure being consecrated for use in the tabernacle.
  • Numbers 31:54 (ESV) — 54 And Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting, as a memorial for the people of Israel before the Lord.
  • 2 Samuel 8:11 (ESV) — 11 These also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued,

What went on in the tabernacle?
Exodus 40:1–15 (ESV) — 1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court. 9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”

We have to mention that both the tabernacle and all its religious artifacts point to Christ.
  • In other words, “the tabernacle was a type of God’s dwelling with men through Jesus…” – David Murray.
  • “A type is a real person, place, object, or event that God ordained to act as a predictive pattern or resemblance of Jesus’ person and work…” – David Murray.
  • For example, as the Israelites submitted to God’s tabernacle demands “they trusted in the Messiah, without knowing all the details of how fulfillment would finally come” – Vern Poythress.


Joshua 6:18 (ESV) — 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them, you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.
Joshua 6:21 (ESV) — 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

As we mentioned, everything in Jericho was going to be consecrated to the Lord.
  • (1) Either put in service of His tabernacle
  • (2) Or devoted to destruction

How is destruction an act of consecration?
  • “The Hebrew phrase for ‘devote to destruction,’ cherem, refers to the destruction of life—human and otherwise—as an act of devotion to Yahweh. The destruction is an act of complete consecration; therefore the verb has a religious connotation: destruction is an act of sacrifice” – Michael Heiser.
  • Or to put another way, destruction can be seen as an “irrevocable surrender to God” of those things that “impede or resist” God’s Work – TWOT.
  • And the Lord tells Israel that if this is not done destruction will come upon “the camp of Israel” (6:18).

To make sense of this, we need to keep in mind, once again, the context and character of God issues from our God-sanctioned war lesson.
  • Additionally, this language “was targeted, not indiscriminate” within the book of Joshua – Michael Heiser.
  • It is directed against the tribes of Canaan.
  • Who, as we already saw, were especially wicked in God’s eyes.

Additionally, God instructed Moses in Deuteronomy 7:2-6 that this devotion to destruction of the Canaanites must occur, otherwise they will lead the Israelites astray.
  • Deuteronomy 7:2–4 (ESV) — 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.

BTW – There are those who think the Canaanites were related to the Nephilim (offspring of fallen angels and humans) of Genesis 6 – Michael Heiser.
  • As such, their wickedness was even more heinous in God’s sight.
  • The spies sent out by Moses to Canaan reported the following:
  • Numbers 13:33 (ESV) — 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

One more sobering aspect of this devotion to destruction was the role of the Divine Warrior – Christ.
  • Exodus 23:20–23 (ESV) — 20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out,

But, vividly contrasted with Christ as judge is Christ as savior.
  • Rahab’s rescue from the devotion to destruction takes up most of the end of Joshua 6.
  • The stark contrast of Rahab’s rescue with Jericho’s destruction is “unusually significant” – Woudstra.
  • Richard Hess suggests that Rahab’s rescue was theologically possible because:
  • She had “ceased to be a Canaanite and ‘devoted’ [herself] to the God of Israel”
  • So she did not escape “devotion” to God, but by her faith, her “devotion” was salvation and not destruction.


Joshua 6: 1-14 – Military Strategy or Faith Strategy

Last week we dealt with the dilemma of God-sanctioned war.
  • We saw that to fairly deal with this dilemma we had to –
    • Understand character of Yahweh as taught OT.
    • Understand context of conquest – judgment and one-time event were two examples given. 

The remaining chapters in Joshua are organized as follows (Bruce Waltke):
  • Giving/Taking the Land – 6-12
  • Alotting the Land – 13-21
  • Retaining the Land – 22-24

From this, we see that the land is of central importance to the Book of Joshua.
  • For this reason, we need to take a quick look a couple of important things the land represented.


(1) The first is that it is a fulfillment of God’s covenant and promises to Abraham and Moses.
  • Genesis 15:18–21 (ESV) — 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
  • Genesis 17:7–8 (ESV) — 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
  • Joshua 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.

An important offshoot of this is that God has securely located promise fulfillment in the physical – creation.
  • Unlike Israel’s neighbors who saw the “spiritual” as the bee’s knees.

We saw this in our series on resurrection.
  • People, nation and land were valued above some spiritual existence.
  • The Kingdom of God was to culminate in a physical existence under the Messiah’s reign, not a spiritual existence.
  • Eternal life is a physical life “in the age to come”; heaven is temporary.

(2) The second is that the giving of the Promised Land marked out huge move in redemption history from chaos to order.
  • “Israel’s crossing of the Jordan symbolically marks their transition out of the hostile, precarious, and chaotic wilderness [and slavery]. The moment of crossing into the good land drastically revises Israel’s being (cf. Josh. 23:15–16). Leonard L. Thompson says, “ ‘Land’ becomes a cipher [representation] for a total social order. The move into the Land is nothing short of that creative change from chaos to ordered cosmos” – Bruce Waltke.

This is seen in a number of ways.
  • The transition from God’s provision via manna to provision via the provisions of Promised Land itself – Sam Schultz.
  • God’s control of the “chaotic” waters of the Jordan that enabled entry into the Promised Land.
  • The appearance of the Divine Warrior to Joshua.
    • God was behind the conquest and the giving of the land.
    • His work enabled the Israelites’ taking of the land.
  • The coming allotment of the land to all the tribes of Israel.
  • And, of course, event after event in Israel’s history, culminating in Jesus Christ – the Ultimate Order.

A final thought on the Land:
  • “The land promises are fulfilled several times but have never been consummated. God fulfills the promises through Joshua (e.g., Josh. 21:43–45) but not completely (e.g., Josh. 13:1–7); he fulfills them more completely through David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:20–25; Neh. 9:8) but not consummately (see Ps. 95:11). There still remains a consummation of the Sworn Land for the people of God (Heb. 4:6–8; 11:39–40)” – Bruce Waltke


The Defense:
Joshua 6:1 (ESV) — 1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.

In war, any warrior worth his salt bristles at the idea of taking a defensive over an offensive posture.
  • Unless, of course, there are some very good reasons to do so.
  • This defensive posture was obviously based upon the knowledge of what Yahweh was capable of doing.

But this also presents us with a peculiar situation.
  • How are a bunch of slaves going to defeat a well-fortified and defended military outpost?
  • The Israelites are “a people unskilled in the kind of warfare that was now required” – Mark Woudstra.

The normal course of action is to lay siege and blockade.
  • Deprive them access to food and water and thus force them to surrender.
  • While at the same time building a way to access the fortress.

We see an example of this with Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem.
  • 2 Kings 25:1–3 (ESV) — 1 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 2 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem lasted over two years.

Another famous example is the Roman siege of Masada.
  • The Romans built a siege ramp 375 feet high and used a battering ram to penetrate the walls.

But the Lord gives Joshua a plan that is quite different.

The Plan:
Joshua 6:2–5 (ESV) — 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”

Many believe that “the Lord” could very well be the Divine Warrior – Bruce Waltke.
  • If so, we have here the Divine Warrior drawing up the battle plans for the taking of Jericho.
  • And the plans are anything but the building of siege works and plans to blockade supplies.
  • In fact, the plans aren’t even a military strategy at all – David Howard.

What type of battle strategy is it?
  • A “ceremonial circling of the city rather than classic military tactics” – David Howard.
  • In other words, a “faith strategy” instead of a “military strategy”.

This faith strategy puts all attention on Yahweh in two ways.
  • (1) The Ark – Yahweh, represented by the ark, becomes in a sense the “siege worker” of Jericho.
    • God is symbolically present in the ark, and daily He is circling Jericho.
    • Judgment is coming and God is in the midst of it.
  • (2) Seven – The repetition of the number seven “is doubtless symbolical, recalling God’s works at creation” – Woudstra.
    • “The Lord who creates also works in the history of redemption. On the seventh day he will act on his people’s behalf” – Mark Woudstra.
    • After all, the Lord did say to Joshua, “I have given Jericho into your hand” (vs. 2).

The Orders:
Joshua 6:6–10 (ESV) So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” 8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “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.”

Joshua then dutifully passed on the Divine Warrior’s instructions.
  • We have no evidence that Israel balked at Joshua’s unorthodox battle plan.
  • They continued to endorse Joshua as Moses’ chosen replacement.

And it seems that Joshua understands that the Lord will be playing the primary role in the defeat of Jericho.
  • His first words to the people are, “Take up the ark of the covenant” (vs. 6).
  • In fact, in these four verses, the ark is spoken of 5 times.

Orders Carried Out:
Joshua 6:11–14 (ESV) So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. 12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

Just as the Divine Warrior had commanded and Joshua had ordered, the warriors and priests of Israel implemented the unorthodox plan.
  • And again, the ark is spoken of 4 times in just four verses.
  • There is no doubt that God is the “siege-worker” of this “faith strategy”.

Summary of Joshua 6:1-14:
“We cannot help noticing the strangeness of Yahweh’s method: armed men, seven priests blowing rams’ horns, the ark, the rear guard, such was the caravan that circled Jericho each day and seven times on the seventh day. But, as at the crossing of the Jordan, it is the ark of Yahweh that holds centre stage” – Dale Davis.

This teaches us:
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) — 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

Additionally we can pull an interesting point of application out of this text – Silence.
  • Joshua 6:10 (ESV) — 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “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.”
  • For six days they circle Jericho in silence!
  • And presumably this was made all the more difficult by the teasing reigned down from the walls of Jericho by the Canaanites – James Boice.
    • Though scared at first, by the third or fourth day they must have been puzzled and emboldened.

What is this all about?
  • Be quiet before the Lord and let God speak - Boice.
  • Psalm 62:1 (ESV) — 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
  • Habakkuk 2:20 (ESV) — 20 But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”


James 2:14-26 – Works of Faith

An English schoolteacher was in Switzerland visiting a school, at which she would soon begin teaching.
  • While there, the schoolmaster showed her several rooms near the school that she could rent.
  • Upon her return to England, she remembered not seeing “W.C.’s” near any of the rooms.
  • “W.C.” is short for Water Closet – a bathroom.
  • She sent a letter to the schoolmaster asking if the rooms had “W.C.’s” nearby.

The schoolmaster, thinking “W.C.” was the Wayside Chapel, wrote her back the following letter:
Dear Madam:
I take great comfort in informing you that a "W.C." is situated nine miles from the house in the corner of a beautiful grove of pine trees, surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 229 people, and it is open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great many people expected during the summer months, I would suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation, particularly if you are in the habit of going regularly. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good many bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others, who can't afford to go by car, arrive just in time. I would especially advise your ladyship to go on Thursdays when there is an organ accompanist. The acoustics are excellent and even the most delicate sounds can be heard everywhere. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the "W.C." and it was there that she met her husband. I can remember the rush there was for seats. There were ten people to a seat usually reserved for one, and it was wonderful to see the expression on their faces.
The newest attraction is a bell, donated by a wealthy resident of the district, which rings every time a person enters. A Bazaar is to be held to raise money for plush seats for all, since the people believe it is a long felt want. My wife is rather delicate so she can't go regularly: it is almost a year since she went last. Naturally it pains her not to be able to go more often. I shall be delighted to reserve the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by all. For the children there is a special time so that they will not disturb the elders.
Hoping to have been of some service to you, I remain,
Sincerely, The Schoolmaster


Like “W.C.”, our text uses some words that need defining or mass confusion will ensue.
  • Look at James as England and Paul as Switzerland.
  • They use the same words and, in this case, mean different things.
  • Four words we need to look are:
  • Works – Faith – “that faith” – Justified

As we define these words, we hope to accomplish the following:
  • (1) Unpack the text itself and get at its meaning
  • (2) Reconcile James and Paul
  • (3) Figure out the “so what”.

The BDAG, WSNTDICT, and commentaries tell us the following –
  • In the context of James 2, “works” (ergon) means “that which displays itself in activity of any kind, deed, action”.
  • And we are told these are works “springing from faith”.

So, “works” for James is –
  • The deeds and actions that display faith.

So what is this faith being displayed?

As most of us know, “faith” carries with it the idea of “to believe in” and “to trust in”.
  • Biblically, of course, the belief and trust comes from the heart and is put in Jesus Christ.

Importantly, this trust in Christ also entails:
  • A submission to Him, and the facts and implications of the Gospel.
  • This is called Lordship Salvation.

Some examples:
  • Jesus is Lord.
  • We are sinners in need of salvation.
  • We fall short of God’s glory.
  • Jesus is exalted to the right hand of God.

Faith as “heart submission” to Christ and the facts of the Gospel appears all through the NT.
  • Romans 10:9-10 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord [Gospel Fact that demands submission] and believe in your heart [trust and submission] that God raised him from the dead [Gospel Fact], you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes [trust and submission] and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses [what? – the facts of the Gospel] and is saved.
  • 1 Peter 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again [from which we trust and submit] to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead [Gospel Fact],
  • John 20:31 (ESV) — 31 but these [Gospel Facts] are written so that you may believe [trust and submission] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [Gospel Fact], and that by believing [trusting and submitting] you may have life in his name.
  • 1 John 5:20 (ESV) — 20 And we know that the Son of God has come [Gospel Fact] and has given us understanding [a heart thing – disposition of the will], so that we may know him who is true [Gospel Fact]; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life [Gospel Fact].

Works and Faith together:
We can now put these two definitions together to get a full picture of James’ use of “works”.
  • Works are the deeds and actions that display our trusting in and submission to Jesus Christ.

I think right away this brings clarity to where James is headed.
  • To paraphrase James 2:14 –
  • What good is it, my brothers, if someone has faith but does not have deeds and actions that display his trust and submission to Jesus Christ?

“That Faith”:
James goes on to ask if a faith without works, “that faith”, can save him (vs. 14).
  • Or to put another way –
  • Can a faith that does not have deeds and actions that display trust and submission to Christ save?
  • The answer to the question is no, it can’t.

He goes on to show us why “that faith” is powerless to save.
  • (1) “that faith” Knows the Gospel facts and creeds – “God is one” for example
    • Something even demons know and fear (vs. 19)
  • (2) But “that faith” has no works.
    • In other words, “that faith” does not have deeds and actions that display trust and submission to Christ.

Therefore it isn’t saving faith.
  • It is all words and no action.

That Faith” – A Serious Problem:
This “that faith” without works is so offensive to James and the integrity of the body of believers that James describes it as follows:
  1. That Faith w/o works is of no “good” (vs. 14-16)
    1. Like telling the hungry and naked to “be warmed and filled” (vs. 16)
  2. That Faith w/o works “is dead” (vss. 17, 26)
    1. Like a body with no spirit is dead, so “that faith” is dead (vs. 26)
  3. That Faith “apart from works” is useless (vs. 20)
    1. So useless that to insist it is useful is to be the fool (vs. 20)
    2. As Lindsay says, these are harsh words – James isn’t playing around.

“For James, [that faith] means a bogus kind of faith, mere intellectual agreement without a genuine personal trust in Christ that bears fruit in one’s life” – Grant Osborne.

PET PEEVE – this text is not citing a problem with knowledge, but with the heart.
  • This text is not an excuse to be intellectually lazy with God’s word and theology.
  • It is not extolling the merits of action over knowledge.
  • They go together – inseparably.
  • Knowledge of God and His word planted in a submitting and trusting heart will produce fruit!

James then goes on to argue that justification is dependent on whether we possess a faith that works or “that faith”.
  • This sounds somewhat scandalous.

Three times James says a person is “justified by works”.
  • James 2:24 (ESV) — 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
  • This is an apparent contradiction of Paul’s teaching.
  • For Paul says in Romans 3:20 & Galatians 2:16, “by works of the law no human being will be justified”.

Paraphrase 2:24 for clarity:
  • A person is justified by the deeds and actions that display our trusting in and submission to Christ and not by “that faith”, which lacks trust and submission, having only knowledge.

Doing this, we see that James’ use of justification is referring not to the act of salvation itself.
  • It is referring to the “deeds and actions that display” a salvation we already have.
    • Deeds and actions that display we have already trusted in and submitted to Christ.

We know this not only from the meaning of the words.
  • But because this is precisely the argument James makes when he talks about Abraham and Rahab.

James affirms that Abraham was declared righteous by his faith alone (vs. 23).
  • James 2:23 (ESV) — 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

Yet, James says, we know Abraham’s faith was real because Abraham’s “faith was completed by his works” (vs. 22).
  • How? – His actions with Isaac demonstrated his trust and submission to God.
    • This is what James meant when he said, “I will show you my faith by my works” (vs. 18).
    • Abraham had a real faith because he actually trusted God with the future of Isaac – part of the promised offspring of Israel.

And in Rahab’s case, James points out the same thing (vs. 25).
  • Rahab’s trust and submission to Yahweh were made known by her works.
  • She aided Joshua’s spies – hid them and sent them out her window to safety.

James and Paul:
Contrast James’ justification with Paul’s use of “justification”.
  • When Paul speaks of justification he speaks of being declared righteous by God based on Jesus’ perfect obedience and atoning sacrifice.
  • Paul speaks of salvation itself.

In other words:
  • Paul’s angle – Whose works make us righteous in God’s sight?
    • Not ours, Christ’s.
  • James’ angle – Whose works demonstrate that we are righteous in God’s sight?
    • Our works.

For this reason, both James and Paul would agree with the following:
  • “We are saved by faith alone, but not by the faith that is alone” – Paul Mizzi.
  • “Faith is always obedient faith. Salvation by faith does not negate the necessity and importance of works” – John MacArthur.

Works of Faith and Us:
Abraham’s faith with works jeopardized the future of his promised offspring.
  • Rahab’s put her in danger of being found a traitor – probably a risk to her livelihood and life.

It is interesting that both of James’ examples of works of faith are sacrificial in nature.
  • The works display a willingness to jeopardize life, comfort and future.

For this reason, I always hesitate to list do’s and don’t’s.
  • We might see a list in Scripture and check it off in a legalistic fashion.
  • “I have no trouble with anger”; “I have no trouble with quarreling”; “I feed the hungry”; etc.

What we need to do is search our hearts for things we do struggle with – for example:
  • Idolatry of Comfort
  • Idolatry of Routine
  • Struggles with self-denial
  • Struggles with renewing the mind
  • Lack of right worship

The works of faith called for in your life may or may not be the same as the Christians to whom James is writing.


What is the Point?
  • Why is it so important for James to teach us about “that faith” versus a faith with works?

(1) The first point of importance is obvious (from James 1 and 2) –
  • Christianity w/o works of faith is “worthless”, “dead” “no good”, and “useless”.
  • It contains “filthiness” and “rampant wickedness”.
  • It is “unstable”.
  • It does not “produce the righteousness of God”.
    • It does not emulate His character.

And as a result of such a faith, those to whom James is writing, “have become ‘double-minded,’ wavering between God and the world (1:8; 4:8)” – Grant Osborne.
  • A “double-minded” church that wavers is an ineffective and dying church.

The second point of importance is less obvious, but fundamentally more important.

James tells the church he is writing so that they are not to be deceived by their desires.
  • Desires lead to sin and death (James 1:15-16).
  • But, he says, instead of from our desires, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17).

(2) So the second important point has to do with origins.
  • Like “every good gift” comes from God, works of faith are powered by God.
  • Works of faith are possible because we are in Christ.
  • Since faith unites to Christ it cannot be lifeless. It works through love (Galatians 5:6). It seeks to do all the ‘good works, which God prepared beforehand’ for us (Ephesians 2:10) – Paul Mizzi.
  • And works that are powered by Christ WILLproduce the righteousness of God” (1:20).

Only those with genuine faith can deny self, and jeopardize future and comfort for Christ’s sake.
  • For in Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin and self.

Additionally, because works of faith point to the believer’s Union with Christ, they glorify God.
  • Abraham’s trusting God with his promised offspring, Isaac, points to:
    • God’s character
    • God’s covenant faithfulness
    • God’s love
    • God’s power to raise Isaac from the dead if need be.

A Final Thought:
An implication of James’ teaching is that faith without works is, in fact, a negation of the works of Christ!