Saturday, June 4, 2011

Joshua 5 & 6 - Circumcision at Gilgal and the Fall of Jericho

Sun and shadows in Jericho, originally uploaded by Flopas.
LINK: Joshua 5 & 6


BACKGROUND

A new generation had entered the Promised Land. Therefore, they needed to be circumcised in order to fulfill the covenant. For an explanation of this, see the post for Genesis 17 here

The Israelites were in the Promised Land with their enemies right there. Circumcision would require a recovery period, but the Israelites had enough faith in God to be circumcised even though attack could be a real possibility. It was not likely though since the inhabitants' "hearts melted and no longer had the courage to face the Israelites" (5:1).

After circumcision, they celebrated the Passover for the third time. The first time was before they left Egypt (Exodus 12). The second was at Mount Sinai just before they moved toward Canaan (Numbers 9). Passover could not be eaten until they were circumcised. The inauguration of Passover also marked the end of the manna! Yippee!

Joshua 5 starts a new section . . .

Conquering the Land (5:13 - 12:24)

Joshua saw a commander of the army of the LORD. It is believed that this was a "theophany": an Old Testament appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Joshua's response was worship. Note that the Angel of the LORD's sword was drawn. The iniquity of the Amorites was full, fulfilling God's words to Abraham in Genesis 15:16. The Israelites were to be the instruments of God's divine punishment.

The LORD promised the fall of Jericho, but it was all His battle. He instructed the Israelites to walk around Jericho once every day for six days. They were to do this while following armed guards, seven priests with trumpets, and the Ark of the Covenant. On the seventh day, the priests would blow on the trumpets. At one long blast and a shout, the walls would collapse.

They obeyed, and Jericho was taken. Only Rahab and her family were spared. Note that the New International Version says they were not to take the "devoted things." The New American Standard Bible says "things under the ban." I like this better! Deuteronomy 20:16-18 said that they were to destroy everything so that they would not be corrupted by the Canaanite practices. They could keep the silver, gold, bronze, and iron because this could be used for the tabernacle and its services (stay tuned to see if they obey this command).

Then Joshua cursed anyone who tried to rebuild the city, and this was fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34.

Archaeological note: Jericho was one of the oldest cities in the world. Many archaeologists date its habitation as far back as 7000 B.C. There are extensive pottery remains found on the mound that was once Jericho and in the tombs of the area that point to the occupancy of Jericho until about 1400 B.C. There is a thick burned layer of ash under the pottery that points to major destruction. This seems to match up with Joshua's destruction and eventual burning (Joshua 6:24) of the city (A Survey of Israel's History by Leon Wood, pp. 94-99).

REFLECTION (Written in 2008)

I have lived in my neighborhood for five and a half years. For the first year, I was pretty discouraged. It was almost like there was a big "wall" that surrounded this place much like the walls of Jericho. Then the LORD led me to take "Joshua Walks" around the neighborhood (something I had learned from my mentors in college). I would get up early in the morning and circle the outside perimeter of my neighborhood . Then, I would walk and pray for each house with the neighborhood directory in hand, praying for each person by name. I did this for six days. On the seventh day, I circled the perimeter seven times. I had no trumpet and gave no shout, but . . .

the walls came tumbling down!

There are many stories, but one happened shortly after these walks. In order to get to know my neighbors, I baked each of them a loaf of bread over a period of 18 months. I had baked a loaf of bread on Easter of 2004, but then I realized that most of our neighbors would probably be doing things with their families. Then, I remembered that we had Iranian neighbors who were Baha'i. So, I assumed they would not be celebrating. George and I went to deliver the bread, and Iraj answered the door. His jaw DROPPED! 

He said, "I told Nourieh (his wife) just before you rang the bell that I would really like to have a loaf of homemade bread!" 

They invited us in, and we spent the rest of that Easter afternoon with our Iranian neighbors. It was delightful! Now, Nourieh and I study the Bible together every week, and they have become great friends! In fact, last July, Nourieh planned a surprise birthday party for me with the women of the neighborhood!

God has made the walls fall down in this neighborhood, and I know it is a result of prayer!

(2014 Update: Sadly, Iraj died of cancer last fall. I saw Nourieh the other day, and we decided to resume meeting again.) 

APPLICATION

Are there any "walls" of Jericho in your life? Why not put your shoes on and walk and pray them down?

PRAYER

Lord, give us the faith to believe that the battle is not ours but Yours. Help us to fight those battles through prayer. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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