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.”