As I was reading the book of Joshua the other day with “fresh eyes” a number of things jumped out at me that I had never really noticed before. Normally when one thinks of Jericho we remember it as a wonderful Sunday school story proclaiming the glory of God’s power…well, for the people of Jericho it wasn’t quite so wonderful!
Starting in chapter 1 we are told that Joshua is commanded by the Lord to cross over the Jordan and enter into the land that that he will give to them.
Joshua 1:2 Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
First Joshua sends two men as spies to search out the land that the Lord had promised to give Hebrews for an inheritance. The spies are hidden in the house of a harlot named Rahab, because the king of the land has heard that there are men who are trying to search out his country. Now the Lord has spoken to Rahab and told her that he is going to give all the land of her people to the Hebrews, so she decides to hide them on the promise that all of her household will be spared when the Lord delivers the land into the hands of the Hebrews. The only reason that this land is being taken is because the Hebrews say that the Lord promised it to them, it makes no difference that this land is already owned by the inhabitants who live there. I guess the Hebrew’s figure it is the Lords prerogative to give whatever he wants to whomever he wants, because everything belongs to the Lord.
Joshua 2:1-2 And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot's house, named Rahab, and lodged there. And it was told the king of Jericho, saying, Behold, there came men in hither to night of the children of Israel to search out the country.
Joshua 2:9 And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you…24) And they said unto Joshua, Truly the LORD hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.
Chapter 5 continues on telling us that the Hebrew’s were left to wander in the wilderness forty years until all the men of war died because they did not obey the Lord. Chapter 6 then says that the Lord calls all the men of war to surround the city of Jericho for six days, so it seems some men of war are okay, as long as they obey the Lord.
Joshua 5:6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
Joshua 6:2-3 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
For six days the Hebrew’s march around the city, when the seventh day comes the Hebrew men of war are to give a shout, for then the Lord will give them the city. When the walls falls down and the men of war enter the city they are to utterly slaughter all the men, women, children at the Lord’s command, even the animals must die with the edge of the sword, but the Lord allows the Hebrews to keep all the silver and gold for his treasury.
Joshua 6:16-21 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. 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. 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. 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. So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
This seemingly innocent Sunday school story of the taking of the city of Jericho suddenly becomes very disturbing when one pays attention to the details of the story. The question that begs to be asked is what kind of morals does this teach our children? From the story we see that according to God it is okay to murder men, women and children in order to take their land and steal there goods. Doesn’t the sixth, eighth, and tenth commandments forbid such actions, or am I missing something?